Kiyomizudera is one of the most famous temples in Japan and sits on a beautiful wooded hillside overlooking Kyoto. The temple was built in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall and its name literally means ‘Pure Water Temple’. When you see the immense wooden stage jutting out from the main hall, overlooking the hillside which is in bloom in cherry or maple trees, you’ll understand why it’s a UNESCO world heritage site.
Amazingly, the main hall was built without the use of nails but thankfully it’s a very sturdy structure, which it needs to be given the amount of people who visit it every day. The main hall houses a small statue of the eleven faced, thousand armed Kannon, and behind it stands the Jishu Shrine, which is dedicated to love and matchmaking. Here you’ll find the famous Love Stones, placed 18 meters from each other, and if you can walk from one to the other with your eyes closed it it will supposedly bring you luck in finding love. It was too crowded when we went to test the stones out, so if you’re very keen to try it I suggest going to Kiyomizudera early in the day.
Once you’ve taken in the sites from the viewing platform, you can make your way down through the wooded hillside to the Otowa Waterfall. Its waters are divided into three separate streams and visitors can use cups attached to long poles to drink from them. Each stream is said to have a different benefits; longevity, success at school and a fortunate love life, but drinking from all three is considered greedy. Again, it was a bit too crowded for us to get to the waterfalls but if you’re willing to line up for a while, go for it!
There are several other temples to see on the grounds. Okunoin Hall is a small reconstruction of the main hall and a visit to Koyasu Pagoda will supposedly bring a safe and easy childbirth. From there, you can head to the nearby Higashiyama district and Yasaka Shrine. If you’re lucky to visit in mid-March, the grounds will be lit up at night for the annual Hanatoro Festival.