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.
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.
Click on a photo for a larger image.