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KIYOMIZU-DERA temple tour 清水寺英語: its renovation, stage, and Jisyu shrine in Kyoto!



Overview on Kiyomizu-dera temple

Kiyomizu-dera temple is one of the most famous landmarks in Kyoto and lures many tourists.

Its history dates back to the 778 A. D. The monk called Enchin had an oracle while he was asleep; Go to the Mt. Otowa. He found a golden stream and met Senju Kannnon, the Kannnon (Guanyin) who saves people with her 1,000 hands.

This is the foundation of Kiyomizu-dera temple.

In early days, Kiyomizu-dera temple belonged to Kofukuji temple and Hosso-syu school.  And In 1965, it established Kita-Hosso-syu and was separeted of Hosso-syu.

In 1994, it was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites.

Though its long history, the building of Kiyomizu-dera temple we see today was constructed in the 17th century as a dedication of Tokugawa Iyemitsu, the 3rd Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate because the former building was burnt out by the fire.

Today, the main hall is under the renovation of its roof.


The renovation of Kiyomizu-dera temple


Many building belong to Kiyomizu-dera temple was under the renovation for a decade.

Today, the main hall is covered with a huge cage. It is a scaffold named Suyane, which means “bare roof” in Japanese,  for restoring of the roof. The restore is to be completed in 2020.


The roof of Kiyomizu-dera is constructed in a technique called “Hiwadabuki.” Take a look at the photo above. It is a miniature of the roof. The frame is covered with barks of Japanese cypress. These barks are put together with bamboo wedges. Sometimes it is said that the roof of Kiyomizu-dera constructed without nails but the roof itsself is fixed to beams with them actually.  The bark used for Hiwadabuki is a surface of a tree and the tree is still alive after barking.

The most of all Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan are constructed in this technique which requires replacement of barks in a couple of decades.


We can visit the kiyomizu-dera and be on the famous stage though it is under construction. Don’t worry.  We have a view like this from the stage.


The stage of Kiyomizu-dera temple


Without cage, the stage is like this. The main hall of Kiyomizu-dera temple is located on an edge of a cliff. The stage stands on a steep slope of the cliff. This style is called “Kake-zukuri,” or “Gake-zukuri.”

In this style, we can make buildings on cliff. The stage has 18 pillars made out of over 400 years old Japanese maple trees.


The construction of the stage is called Jigoku-gumi, or “Hell’s construction.” In Jigoku-gumi, we don’t use nails. Builders put pieces of wood together by mortise joints and wedges as if they were a grid. All of the pieces of wood support each other and give strength to the stage.

Jigokugumi is so strong that it has survived many huge earthquakes for around 400 years.

The stage is originally build as a place to perform music and dance as dedication to Kannon enshrined in Kiyomizu-dera temple. The total area of the stage is 2045 ft² and consists of about 400 boards of Japanese cypress. And Its height is about 426ft and as high as the 4-story building.

2017 雪の京都 清水寺

In the days of old, lots of people jumped off the stage wishing for their prosperity.

PROSPERITY? It may sounds strange, but actually they jumped off for their prosperity with umbrella, instead of ripcord.

Their creed as follows;

If they were still alive on the ground, their wish would come true. If not so, their souls would go to Gokurakujodo, a kind of heaven in the Buddhism.

The document belongs to Jyojyuin, the sub-temple of Kiyomizu-dera, reveals that the survival rate is around 85%. Some old pictures tell us that there used be shrubs under the stage and I suppose they saved their lives.


Inside of Kiyomizu-dera temple

The buildings

The building we call Kiyomizu-dera is divided into 2 buildings: Seido and Raido.

Seido is a hall which Senju Kannon is enshrined in and we seldom enter it except special occasion like Senniti mairi in summer. Even at the special occasion,  Senju kannon is locked in the hall. We can see it every 33 years. 33 years, because Kannnon transforms herself into 33 forms for the purpose of saving people in suffer.  Usually, from Raido, we can admire a replica instead of the authentic one.


Raido is a hall we usually pray.  There is a huge roof over Seido, Raido, and the stage and they seems like one building.

Daikokuten 大黒天


In Raido, there is a huge statue. He is Daikokuten, the Deity who brings us prosperity. He stands on bags contain rice and has a hummer that brings us anything we want. If you loved it, you could have a small replica of it. (From 350~900 yen)


The other things to see in Kiyomizu-dera temple

Jisyu Srine 地主神社


In the area of Kiyomizu-dera temple, there is a Shinto shrine named Jisyu shrine. By the early 17th century, the Shinto and the Buddhism is fused and it is not strange there is a Shinto shrine is in the area of a Buddhisit temple. Jisyu shrine is a Chinsyu sya, a Shinto shrine which saves a Buddhist temple.

In Jisyu Shrine, Ohkuninushi no mikoto, the Shinto Deity, is enshrined. In the fusion of the Shinto and the Buddhism, the Deities of each religion were also fused. Ohkuninushi no mikoto was fused with Daikokuten.

Jisyu Srine is famous for love-seekers because Ohkuninushi no mikoto brings us good “Goen.” Goen means “relationship”, or “tie,” i.e., he gives us a good relationship to someone we love.


There are 2 stones in the area of Jisyu shrine. It is believed that if you walked to the one to the other keeping your eyes closed, you would find a good love.


Kiyomozu-dera temple tour

Niomon 仁王門


This is the main gate of Kiyomizu-dera temple. The west gate used be the main gate. Without Niomon,  people looked down the Imperial Place at the west gate. To avoid it, Niomon was constructed as the main gate. It was renovated in 2003.


We can see lattice windows on the both side of the gate. There are statues of Nio inside. Nio is the Buddhist Deity who saves the Buddhism and its believers. The gate is named after it. These statues work as guardians of Kiyomizu-dera temple. (The photo above is taken at Ninnnaji temple.)

Komainu 狛犬

Why are there Komainu in front of a Buddhist temple?


In front of Niomon, there are two statues of Komainu. Komainu is guardian of Shinto shrine. These Komainu are guardian of Jisyu shrine, not of Kiyomizu-dera exaclty.

Why both of them open their mouth?

We always find a pair of Komainu at Shinto shrine. Usually, the right one opens mouth. It is called “Agyo” which means the beginning of the world. On the other hand, the left one shuts its mouth. It is called “Ungyo” which means the end of the world. By Agyo and Ungyo, a pair of Komainu represents the universe.

The peculiar thing about Komainu of Koiyomizu-dera is that both of them open their mouth. No one knows the exact reason. Some says that they ask visitors to pray with smile because Kiyomizu-dera is at the end of a steep slope and many visitors are tired at the gate.

The west gate 西門

Gokurakujodo 極楽浄土


It used be the main gate as indicated before. Today, we cannot pass through it.


It doesn’t work as a gate but we can admire a good view there. At twilight, the view reminds us of Gokurakujodo, or the Western Paradise. If you were interested in it, read an article below.

BYODO-IN temple in Kyoto 平等院; its history and architecture of phoenix hall
Byodo-in temple has a long history and outstanding artifacts. A goat Kyotoite gives you the most precise information on them.

Baku 獏


Baku is an imaginary creature that devour nightmare and get rid of evil things. We can find it at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temple.

Gokusai shiki 極彩色


Architectures in Buddhist temple was painted in Gokusaishiki color usually. Unfortunately, many temple cannot afford to re-paint them and we seldom see beautiful ones. Kiyomizu-dera is one of exemptions. The re-painting of the west gate finished in the last spring. If you wanted admire it, DO NOT forget binoculars or something. We are not allowed to get close to the gate.

Pagoda 三重塔


The highest 3-story pagoda in Japan. Inner construction is in the style of Vajrayana Buddhism. We cannot enter the pagoda but can catch a glimpse of the inner construction and the statue of Dainichi nyorai (Vairocana).


At the 3 tips of the each roofs, there is Onigawara. The word “Oni” is a imaginary creature that save us from bad luck and “gawara” is a tile, i.e., Onigawara means a tile with a Oni face. These tiles saves the pagoda from bad luck.


On the other hand, one tip of the each roofs, there is a dragon tile. In Japan, dragon is the Deity of water and rain. Buddhist temple is easily caught by fire because it is made of wood and paper. Dragon saves the pagoda from fire.

Zuigudo temple 隋求堂

At Zuigudo, we can experience “Tainai Meguri (Going back to the womb).” In Tainai Meguri, we descend the stairs and get into the ground floor of the temple. We are in complete darkness.  On the wall, there is a rope with small balls that works as handrail.  We go back to the womb with help of umbilical cord. In the middle of the darkness, we find a stone lit by dim light. On the stone, a Siddham script letter is engraved. It stands for the Deity enshrined in Zuigudo. We touch it and pray for our wish. After that, we go back to the world and find ourselves reborn.

Todaroki mon gate 轟門

Get rid of anything evil before sacred place


Todoroki mon is the entrance of Kiyomizu-dera temple. We buy ticket and show it to a staff at Todorokimon.


In front of Todorokimon, there is a water basin to purify ourselves before entering the temple as follows;

1) Have a water dipper with your right hand.

2) Pour water on your left hand.

3) Have the water dipper with your left hand.

4) Pour water on your right hand.

5) Have the water dipper with your right hand again.

6) Pour water on your left hand again. This time, your left hand works as a small basin. Have water in your left hand.

7) Rinse mouth with the water in your left hand.

8) Tilt the water dipper and let the water go on a handle of the dipper.

9) Leave the dipper where it was.

ATTENTION: In Japan, it is rude to be in shrines and temples with something to drink or eat in your hand.


We find a dragon on the wash basin because it is the Deity of water.

Lantern 燈篭


At night time visit, beautiful lantern with exquisite work welcomes us.

Iron canes and sandals

Good morning, and good luck


We find iron canes and sandals before we see Daikokuten.

Some 700 years ago, a blacksmith dedicated them to Kannnon in Kiyomizudera-temple.

There are stories about them;

The canes

If we could lift the cane with one hand, our wish would come true. For female person, short one, for male person, long one.

The sandals

Just touch them. Female person would be prosperous. Male person could not say “NO” to his partner for the rest of his life.

Main hall 本堂

We discussed it.

Amidado 阿弥陀堂


Amidado is a place the first “Nenbutsu Jyogyo zanmai” took place. It is a Buddhist practice to pray to Amida Buddha for 90 days. Amida Buddha is the supreme Deity of the universe in the Buddhism and rules Gokurakujodo.

Okunoin 奥の院


Okunoin was overlooked place despite its importance. Enchin, the founder of Kiyomizu-dera temple, practiced the Buddhist teaching everyday at the original building of Okunoin. It was developed itno Kiyomizu-dera temple.

Otowa no taki waterfalls 音羽の滝

On the stage of Kiyomizu-dera temple, we can see small waterfalls named Otowano taki. See the video above. There are 3 waterfalls. We take water from one of them with a water dipper to drink. Each waterfall brings us good luck; From the left to the right, academic achievement, good companion, and good health. We cannot have all of them. We choose one out of the three.


Kiyomizu-dera in illumination ライトアップ

In spring, summer, and fall, Kiyomizu-dera is illuminated.

Spring and summer 春と夏


In autumn leaves 紅葉




The illumination in fall is the most amazing.

The most beautiful Kiyomizu-dera EVAAH! 雪




In snow, Kiyomizu-dera is beyond description. We have only 1 or 2 snowing days in a year.


About Kiyomizu-dera

Official name: Otowazan Kiyomizu-dera 音羽山清水寺

Address: Kiyomizu cho 1-294, Higashiyama ward, Kyoto city, Kyoto pref.

Phone no. 075-551-1234

FAX no. 075-551-1287

Website; Kiyomizu-dera official HP

Open hours: Depends on seasons. See Official website.

Entrance fee: Adult 400 yen Under 16 years old 200 yen

Time required: 1 hour~


Access to Kiyomizu-dera temple

From Gojozaka bus stop

The nearest bus stop is Gojozaka bus stop. It takes 10 minuites to get to Kiyomizu-dera.

From Shijo kawaramachi bus stop

The buses that stop at Gojozaka bus stop is crowded. This route is recommended.

On bicycle

For precise information, see the link below.

Kyoto cycling routes, course, map and itinerary 京都自転車マップ
Bicycle is the best way for sightseeing in Kyoto. A Goat Kyotoite shows you special and secret ways to ride around the city.


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