Visiting Kiyomizu-dera Kyoto in Autumn. Surreal and Beautiful.

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I had the chance to visit Kiyomizu-dera Kyoto in Autumn last year and it was a most wonderful time of my visit.

Although it was already late in the autumn time frame (blame the school holidays and the lack of SQ redemption flights), it was still a surreal experience and a most wonderful part of my Osaka/Kyoto/Hiroshima etc trip.

Kiyomizu-dera is not only a significant religious site but also a major tourist attraction in Kyoto. Its rich history, unique architecture, and breathtaking views make it a must-visit destination for those exploring the cultural heritage of Japan.

Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto

Kiyomizu-dera is a famous Buddhist temple located in eastern Kyoto, Japan. Its name, Kiyomizu-dera, translates to “Pure Water Temple” in English (or 清水寺), referring to the Otawa Waterfall that flows through the temple grounds. The temple is situated on the eastern hills of Kyoto and offers stunning views of the city at the very top.

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Kiyomizu-dera has an amazing history. Kiyomizu-dera was founded in 778 during the Heian period. The temple was originally associated with the Hosso sect of Buddhism but later became affiliated with the Kita Hosso sect. The current buildings date back to 1633, as the temple has undergone several reconstructions over the centuries due to fires and other disasters.

The most iconic feature of Kiyomizu-dera is its wooden stage, known as the Kiyomizu Stage, which juts out from the main hall, Hondo (Main hall). The stage is supported by wooden pillars and offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding area. The main hall, called the Hondo, is a large wooden structure that houses several Buddhist statues and sacred artifacts.

Kiyomizu Stage from hondo (Main hall)
Kiyomizu Stage from hondo (Main hall)

One of the highlights of visiting Kiyomizu-dera is the Otawa Waterfall. This temple derives its name, Kiyomizu, from the pure water that flows from the Otowa no Taki waterfall. It is believed that this water possesses the power to prolong life and grant wishes. Visitors can drink the water from three separate streams of the waterfall, each believed to have a different benefit: success in studies, health, and love life. It is customary to use long-handled cups attached to poles to drink from the streams.

Within the temple grounds, there is a shrine called Jishu Shrine dedicated to Okuninushi, a deity associated with love and matchmaking. The shrine is popular among young visitors who come to pray for romantic success. There are two “love stones” in front of the shrine, and it is said that if you can walk safely from one stone to the other with your eyes closed, you will find love.

Kiyomizu-dera is particularly famous for its stunning cherry blossoms in the spring and vibrant autumn foliage. During these seasons, the temple and its surrounding area attract numerous visitors who come to witness the natural beauty of the changing seasons. I visited in very late autumn (where the leaves are already falling off) but still it was quite a sight.

UNESCO World Heritage Site: Kiyomizu-dera was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 as part of the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto” listing. It is recognized for its cultural and historical significance, representing the religious architecture and craftsmanship of Japan’s past.

So you MUST visit Kiyomizu-dera Kyoto in Autumn.

How I got to Kiyomizu-dera

As I stayed at Shin-Osaka, I got to the JR Shin-Osaka station (not the Shin-Osaka Shinkansen station but they are really under the same roof) seven early eight early in the morning.

From there, I went to the JR Kyoto line at Platform 5-6.

How to go to Kiyomizu-dera
How to go to Kiyomizu-dera

I caught a local train (Rapid) train to Kyoto.

How to go to Kiyomizu-dera
How to go to Kiyomizu-dera

Specifically, I took a train to Tofukuji station. From there, it is a change of train (from JR to Keihan) to Kiyomizu-Gojō 清水五条 station. Kiyomizu-Gojō 清水五条 is just two stations from Tofukuji station.

Tofukuji Changing Train
changing of trains at tofu
two stops from Tofukuji is the Kiyomizu-Gojō 清水五条
two stops from Tofukuji is the Kiyomizu-Gojō 清水五条

And then we easily reach Kiyomizu-Gojō 清水五条 station. We then exit by Exit 4. The signs are everywhere. It is a tourist city after all 🙂

Kiyomizu-Gojō 清水五条 exit 4
Kiyomizu-Gojō 清水五条

From the exit, you just walk along the main road and then turn a slight left (follow the crowd) up a sloping road to the temple.

Visiting Kiyomizu-dera Kyoto in Autumn
signs to go to Visiting Kiyomizu-dera in Autumn

Of course, this is NOT the only way to the Kiyomizu-dera temple in Autumn. This is the way we went. Many choose to go through the Sanneizaka way which is pretty cool. Sanneizaka serves as one of the main access routes to Kiyomizu-dera Temple, one of Kyoto’s most iconic landmarks. The street leads uphill, passing through Ninenzaka, another historic street, before reaching the temple grounds. The journey provides a delightful blend of cultural immersion and anticipation for the temple visit.

We went to Sanneizaka area AFTER the Kiyomizu-dera visit and will share photos too.

Here’s a simple Google Map of how to walk from Kiyomizu-Gojō 清水五条 station to Kiyomizu-dera

how to get to Kiyomizu-Dera
how to get to Kiyomizu-Dera

Along the way, there are many many Instagramable places such as this cafe.

along the way to Kiyomizu-dera
along the way to Kiyomizu-dera

Kimono Rental and Dressing Up

And why did we go this way. This is because half way between the Kiyomizu-Gojō 清水五条 station and the Kiyomizu-dera Kyoto temple, is a Kimono Rental shop that my dearest found on Klook. Yes.. they wanted to do that that that typical tourist thing (on hindsight, it was a good decision.. just not something an uncle like me will do…).

My son also did a dress up and got his familiar Japanese weapon, Katana. In the end, we ended up buying 3 wooden ones of different sizes during this Japan trip.

Kimono Rental and Dressing Up for Child or Kid
Kimono Rental and Dressing Up for kid

And of course the ladies too…

Kimono Rental and Dressing Up
Kimono Rental and Dressing Up
Kimono Rental and Dressing Up
Kimono Rental and Dressing Up

And yes, I admit I am happy they did that. It makes for many nice photos. And the weather of Kiyomizu-dera Kyoto in Autumn makes it a nice time to do it. Not too hot and not too cold either. You can also consider doing Kimono rental if you visit Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.

Actually, I would not know. I was in my Singaporean Uniqlo dressing. You know, that BRIGHT BLUE jacket 🙂

Photos of Kiyomizu-dera Kyoto in Autumn

Beautiful Kiyomizu-dera Kyoto in Autumn !!

You will reach the entrance of the Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto and be treated first to Nio-mon and the Sai-mon (West gate).

Nio-mon and the Sai-mon (West gate)

Nio-mon is the main entrance of Kiyomizu-dera Temple. This grand gateway suffered destruction during a civil war in 1469 but was diligently reconstructed around 1500. In 2003, the gate underwent a careful disassembly and extensive restoration. Standing tall at approximately 10 meters wide, 5 meters long, and 14 meters high, this splendid two-story gate showcases distinctive architectural elements from the period of its reconstruction.

nio-mon at Kiyomizu-dera
nio-mon at Kiyomizu-dera
sai mon at kyoto
sai mon

Sai-mon’s current structure of the building was meticulously reconstructed in 1633. From the vantage point of Sai-mon, visitors are treated to breathtaking sunset vistas, creating a perception of a gateway to Paradise. This sacred location holds great significance as it is associated with Nissokan, a meditation practice that involves visualizing the Pure Land.

dressing up in Kyoto
dressing up in Kyoto
Sai-mon
Sai-mon
Tickets to the Inner Part of the Temple
Tickets to the Inner Part of the Temple

Hondo (Main hall)

Kiyomizu-dera is renowned for its remarkable wooden stage complex, featuring 168 pillars constructed in a unique manner. The structure showcases a fascinating construction technique: using 12-meter high keyaki pillars sourced from ancient trees, and a floor composed of 410 cypress boards, the entire assembly was expertly joined without the use of any nails. Instead, the construction relies on intricate interlocking wooden joints. This stage attracts tourists throughout the year, offering captivating vistas regardless of the season.

Hondo (Main hall) at Kiyomizu-dera
Hondo (Main hall) at Kiyomizu-dera

Within the Kiyomizu-dera temple complex, the main hall houses delicate statues depicting the eleven-faced and thousand-armed manifestation of the Buddhist deity, Kannon. The hall is connected to the butai, a platform designed for dedications and offerings. It is noteworthy that the Japanese saying “to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu” is used akin to the English expression “take the plunge,” signifying a bold and decisive action.

Hondo (Main hall) at Kiyomizu-dera
Hondo (Main hall) at Kiyomizu-dera

Okuno-in Hall

Okuno-in Hall majestically overlooks the Otowa Waterfall, with its present structure rebuilt alongside the Main Hall in 1633. Similar to the Main Hall, Okuno-in features a spacious stage that was constructed using a distinct method. The panoramic vista of the Main Hall stage and the picturesque Kyoto cityscape from this vantage point make it a beloved spot for visitors seeking memorable photo opportunities.

Okuno-in Hall at Kiyomizu-dera
Okuno-in Hall at Kiyomizu-dera

Of course, Okuno-in Hall is the place you stand to take photos of the Hondo (Main hall) at Kiyomizu-dera 🙂

Notice how it is backed by a huge mountain.. brilliant Feng Shui…

Okuno-in Hall at Kiyomizu-dera
Okuno-in Hall at Kiyomizu-dera

You can see the Otowa no taki (Otowa Waterfall) from this photo. Not exactly but the part which the public can access to catch each of the three streams of pure water with ladles and pray for purification of their six senses and to make their wishes come true.

Otowa no taki (Otowa Waterfall)
Otowa no taki (Otowa Waterfall)

From this temple, we went to Sanneizaka area then to the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine.

Conclusion : Visit Kiyomizu-dera or Not

Are you kidding.

It is a MUST.

Period.

Visit Kiyomizu-dera kyoto is a must, especially during autumn
Visit Kiyomizu-dera Kyoto is a must, especially during autumn

You can also consider to visit the Kinkakuji Golden Pavilion at Kyoto ! Or Arashiyama Bamboo Forest !

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