Kiyomizu-dera Kyoto

A Pilgrimage to the Quintessential Temple

While yesterday was unfathomably cold, today Kyoto turned into one gigantic puddle with incessant rain putting a dampener on things so to speak. Stoically we decided to adhere to our original itinerary by visiting both the Kiyomizu Temple and Nijo Castle. Being a world renowned tourist mecca, one thing Kyoto has in spades is a cheap hassle free public transport system to get around. At Kyoto Station we purchased an all-day bus pass which set us back only 500 yen and allows unlimited rides within the flat fare area. Compared with Tokyo where just a couple of lazy subway rides can cost you the same equivalent.

The first point of call and the subject of this post was the Kiyomizu-dera 清水寺. Though constructed in 1633 the temple was originally founded in 798 and is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. From the Gojo-zaka bus stop it’s a 650 metre walk to the temple and passing through the usual array of traditional shop fronts brings you to the main entrance. Perched on the mountain side the temple provides an elevated viewing platform from the main hall’s wooden veranda. With the rain intensifying the area remained forsaken barring a few game tourists dashing out umbrella in toe for a money shot. A popular Japanese expression in these parts is 清水の舞台から飛び降りる、kiyomizu-no-butai-kara-tobi-o-riru “to jump off the porch at Kiyomizu” and is roughly translated as to take the plunge. According to Wikipedia some 234 poor souls have accomplished this feat with most surviving to recount the experience. The Kiyomizu Stage is remarkable in that it is built entirely without the use of nails and sits on 12 metre high keyaki wooden pillars.

The wet weather aside Kiyomizu-dera makes for fascinating excursion into Kyoto’s historical roots. Like most popular touristy sites it pays to arrive early not only to miss the throngs of sightseers but when the light and atmosphere is more conducive to taking snaps.

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