Kyoto’s Kiyomizudera Temple

So after Kanazawa, we took the train to Kyoto.  Remember, this was in September of last year.

Before it was Tokyo, Kyoto was Japan’s capital for about 800 years. Kyoto is to Tokyo sort of the way Boston is to Los Angeles. Kyoto is smaller, quieter, more refined – and with a lot more history.

Speaking of which, there are a lot of historic Buddhist temples in Kyoto, altogether 1,600 temples and shrines. Kiyomizudera is one of those temples, and one that’s a lot of fun to visit.


This is the entrance to the Kiyomizodera temple complex. The main buildings are about 400 years old, but this gate is even older.


I was told these little statues are considered guardians of children. I never did get an explanation for all the red bibs.


There’s a three-story pagoda on the grounds of Kiyomizudera. It’s painted a bright, startling orange. I thought it was the most cheerful-looking pagoda we saw.


If you look closer, you can see the intricate decorations.


The faces on the roofs of the pagoda reminded me of gargoyles on European cathedrals.




One of the the smaller halls next to the pagoda.


The Jishu Shrine is also part of the temple complex. This is a popular spot, as it is dedicated to the god of love and suitable marriages.


There are two stones here set 60 feet apart. If you can walk from one to the other with your eyes closed, you will be lucky in love.


All kinds of trinkets are for sale here, including fortunes written on paper. We were told that if you buy one fortune and don’t like it, you’re not stuck with it. You can just buy another. I like this approach.


People in search of love can leave their wishes here.


And those whose prayers were answered can post their thanks here.


Moving on. The Otowa waterfall is at the base of the main temple. The temple is named for the waterfall – Kiyomizu means clear water. The water is thought to bestow good luck.


The water trough here is for washing your hands before entering the temple.


The main building was closed for renovations when we visited, but we could still visit one of the historic verandas, which have amazing views.


There was a tradition of people jumping off one of these verandas. If the jumper survives the 40 foot drop, their wish is granted. Official records were kept of the several hundred who jumped.  About 85% lived, which is decent odds.

Sadly for compulsive risk-takers, the practice is now prohibited. However, the Japanese equivalent for the expression “taking the plunge” is “jumping off Kiyomizu”.


Anyway, here’s the view from the temple veranda.


And this is us. More posts on Kyoto to come.

32 Comments on “Kyoto’s Kiyomizudera Temple”

    • She’s clutching a fan, though it does sort of look like a handbag. You do see people dressed up in traditional garb around major tourist attractions. It’s considered an experience, like dressing up like a cowboy in the American West. You have to rent the kimonos, etc., and they’re not cheap.

  1. This is a beautiful temple complex. I wonder what the significance of the rope over the gate and then they showed a rope on the drawing of the love rock. Hmmmm What a beautiful sight looking out over the country side to the mountains from the temple. Just think of how magnificent it was before the city took most of the view. I am always struck by all of the bright colors they use on temples, kimonos etc when you see them now mostly dressed in black and the normal every day structures are so colorless.

  2. At last, I have found your blog. I was looking for it in my older comments but still could not find it. It’s lovely to see you and, I am guessing, your wife in the last pic.

    All the pictures are wonderful. That orange is really vibrant. Do you know in my language (Bengali), Jishu means “Jesus” (Father Jesus Christ). And, there it means “love”?

  3. I have always had a feeling I would prefer Kyoto to Tokyo, and your post confirms this. It is always interesting to see the traditions of other cultures, and how very well they look after their temples. I bet they repaint those lovely orange parts of the temple frequently. Nice happy photo of you and Judy, it is always a bonus when someone can take a photo of you both while you are travelling.

  4. More gorgeous photos! Thank you for sharing your trip – the details on the orange pagoda are really stunning!
    There’s a sad tale to the little red bibs on the little statues, which are called Ojizo-Sama, and are said to be protecting children: apparently grieving parents put their babies’ bibs on these to protect their child in the other world. Other parents also sometimes leave their children’s toys etc, to protect them from illness.
    I’ve seen them on Kitsune (the fox spirit) because he is a messenger and does a lot of running around, so the traditional red tied around his neck is to make sure he doesn’t bring any illness with him. I think that’s a very simplified version, I suspect there was more to it.

  5. I love the decorations on the pagoda. So striking! What a lovely place to visit with so much history. I must say, that is quite the unusual tradition of jumping off such a high place with those odds! And those odds don’t include the number of people that end up with broken legs or spinal damage…

  6. This is a lovely post Jason! Your recent trips to Japan have encouraged me to fetch my photo albums out of the attic and put them within reach. 🙂 Your photos of Kiyomizudera are fabulous. It is one of my favourites, and I was lucky enough to see it on a snowy winter’s day, in cherry blossom season and in early summer. Nice picture of you both with the great background. 🙂

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