Kiyomizu-dera temple

Some of the halls and pagodas are under repair. For more information, see the Landmarks Under Repair page.

Kiyomizu-dera (literally, Pure Water Temple) is the 16th of the Western Japan 33 Kan'non pilgrimage sites and is the most popular place in Kyoto. The Kita-Hosso-Shu sect temple has more than four million visitors annually. The best attraction of the temple is the main hall (Hondo) on a steep slope that has a famous verandah. "To jump off the verandah of Kiyomizu-dera" is a proverb that means "to do a drastic thing taking an enormous risk" or "to make a grave determination".

Hondo is a national treasure. The principal image in the main hall (Juichimen-Senju-Kan'non, Eleven-faced and one-thousand-armed Bodhisattva of Compassion) is shown to the public once in 33 years and other special events only and no photos are available to the public. They have many important cultural properties that include Nio-mon gate, the three storied pagoda and Buddhist images.

Kiyomizu-dera is one of seventeen World Cultural Heritage sites in Kyoto.

History

In the year 778, Priest Enchin who inspired by divine revelation in a dream to go up Kizu-gawa river to find a fountain of pure water, travelled up to a waterfall in the foot of Otowa-yama (Mt. Otowa). He met Gyoei Koji, a Buddhist recluse who had been devoted to self discipline there, and was given a block of sacred wood. Enchin carved a statue of a Buddhist deity Kannon Bosatsu out of the block and enshrine it in the thatched hut which Gyoei had been living till then.

Two years later, a military General "Sakanoue no Tamuramaro" (758-811) came up into the mountain and met Enchin who lectured for him on the merciful teaching of Kannon Bosatsu. Tamuramaro became a pious devotee to the Kannon and he devoted a hall for the statue. These are said to be an origin of this temple. The name of the temple,"Kiyomizu" literally means "pure water" and came from the above story.

Buildings of Kiyomizu-dera were destroyed many times by an earthquake or fires that include the following. Kiyomizu-dera used be a sub-temple of Kofuku-ji in Nara that had feud with Enryaku-ji and was entangled in factional strife from around year 999. The fires in 1146 and 1165 were set by the followers of Enryaku-ji. Most of its buildings were burned down by fires of war in 1469 and again by fire in 1629. The third Tokugawa shogun Iemitsu rebuilt the buildings from 1631 to 1633.

This temple used to be a Hosso-shu sect temple but became independent in 1965 and call themselves the headquarters of Kita-Hosso-shu (North Hosso-shu) sect.

How to get to Kiyomizu-dera temple

  • 10 minutes from Kyoto Station to Gojozaka bus stop by Kyoto City Bus No. 206 then 10 minutes on foot, or
  • 6 minutes from Shijo-Kawaramachi to Kiyomizu-michi bus stop by Kyoto City Bus No. 207 then 10 minutes on foot

Hours and Admission

6:00 am to 6:00 pm (5:30 pm when night admission is provided)

Elementary school children and junior high school students (1st to 9th graders): 200 yen
Those older than the above: 300 yen.

Photos / Pictures

Click on a photo for a larger image.

Kiyomizu-dera looked from Kyoto Tower
Kiyomizu-dera looked from Kyoto Tower.
March 13, 2004
Halls and a pagoda looked from Koyasu-no-to
Halls and a pagoda of Kiyomizu-dera temple, looked from Koyasu-no-to pagoda in winter.
January 7, 2007
Nio-mon gate Nio-mon at night Nio-mon in winter
Nio-mon gate that was rebuilt in late 15th century. This is an important cultural property.
March 13, 2004
Nio-mon at night.
March 14, 2004
Nio-mon in winter. Sai-mon gate and the three storied pagoda (both are important cultural properties) are seen on the right of the photo.
January 7, 2007
Nio-mon and a distant view of Kyoto Belfry of Kiyomizu-dera The pagoda of Kiyomizu-dera
Nio-mon gate and a distant view of Kyoto City.
March 13, 2004
Belfry, an important cultural property.
October 07, 2000
The pagoda of Kiyomizu-dera under dark snow clouds.
January 7, 2007
Pagoda and cherry blossoms Pagoda and Autumn leaves Pagoda of Kiyomizu-dera at night
Pagoda of Kiyomizu-dera and cherry blossoms
April 7, 2001
Pagoda of Kiyomizu-dera and Autumn leaves.
November 26, 2000
Pagoda of Kiyomizu-dera at night.
March 14, 2004
Hondo, the Main Hall The Main Hall wearing snow on its roof Supporting structure of Main Hall
Hondo, the Main Hall, of Kiyomizu-dera and Autumn leaves. The hall was rebuilt in 1633 by the order of the third Tokugawa Shogun Iemitsu. This is a national treasure.
November 25, 2000
The Main Hall wearing snow on its roof.
January 1, 2005
Supporting structure of Kiyomizu-dera's Main Hall. It is constructed with 139 pillars and no nails are used.
January 1, 2005
Koyasu-no-to pagoda Koyasu-no-to at night
A close up view of the supporting structure of Hondo.
August 22. 2007
Koyasu-no-to pagoda looked from Hondo.
April 7, 2001
Koyasu-no-to at night, looked from the Main Hall.
March 14, 2004
Oku-no-in Hondo and a distant view of Kyoto City Stairs between Otowa falls and the Main Hall
Oku-no-in looked from the Main Hall. On the foreground is the verandah of the Main Hall.
January 7, 2007
Hondo and a distant view of Kyoto City
August 22. 2007
Stairs that leads to Otowa falls from the Main Hall.
March 13, 2004
Otowa falls Jishu-jinja

Otowa falls and women in Kimono.
October 7, 2000
Jishu-jinja in the precinct of Kiyomizu-dera. The god of the shrine is believed to be the god of marriage.
June 8, 2003
Hyakutai-Jizo-do (One Hundred Jizo Hall)
August 22. 2007
Jizo Buddhist images Jizo Buddhist images 2
A person pouring water on Nurete-Kan'non
August 22. 2007
Jizo Buddhist images in front of the pillars of the Main Hall.
June 8, 2003
Jizo Buddhist images beside the pillars of the Main Hall.
June 8, 2003
Jizo Buddhist images 3 A woman in Kimono walks on Chawan-zaka Votive picture tablets and girls
Many Jizo Buddhist Images.
February 12, 2005
A woman in Kimono walks on Chawan-zaka slope toward Kiyomizu-dera.
January 1, 2005
Votive picture tablets and girls at Kiyomizu-dera.
October 7, 2000