Kiyomizu-dera Temple (清水寺)

Kiyomizu Temple, one of the World Heritage Sites and famous for the stage of Kiyomizu.


The precincts of Kiyomizu-Dera Temple are located on the eastern side of Kyoto, halfway up Mount Otowa. Kiyomizu-Dera Temple has more than 30 pagodas and buildings, including national treasures and important cultural properties. Since its foundation, fire destroyed the temple more than 10 times. Each time people rebuilt the buildings. Most of the present buildings were from1633 in Edo Period.

Origin of the temple

According to “Kiyomizu-dera Engi” (“Kiyomizu-dera Engi” in “Shoku Gunsho Ruishu”), which describes the beginning of Kiyomizu-dera, a monk Kenshin founded the temple in 778. He learned buddhism and became a monk in Nara. One day, a diety told him in a dream to “leave the southern land.”

Following his dream, Kenshin walked north and eventually found a waterfall with clear water gushing out of it at Mount Otowa in Kyoto. He met an old hermit there, Gyoei -Koji, who was practicing asceticism in a hermitage by this waterfall. Gyōei-Kōji gave Hyōshin a sacred tree suitable for building the Kannon. He said, “I have been waiting for you to come. I am going to the East to train. Please use this sacred tree to carve a statue of the Kannon and build a hall on this sacred site.

Kenshin immediately realized that this was the sacred place, and thereafter protected the hermitage and the sacred place of Kannon on Mount Otowa. The clear spring that Kenshin found is “Otowa no Taki” (waterfall of Otowa), and the clear water continues to gush forth to this day.

Source: Temple’s official WEB site

Kiyomizu-no-butai, hanging construction

The main hall of Kiyomizu-dera Temple is famous for its “Kiyomizu-no-butai” (stage of Kiyomizu). It is a wooden stage with huge Zelkova columns underneath, the longest of which is about 12 meters long. The stage is a hanging construction “kake-zukuri” method that rides out on the slope of the mountain. There is not a single nail used.

The stage was originally a place for dedicating performing arts to the Kannon, the principal deity of the temple. Since the Heian period (794-1185), various performing arts such as gagaku, Noh, kyogen, kabuki, and sumo have been dedicated here.

The famous Kiyomizu Temple stage
The famous butai (stage)

Nearby spots

Kodaiji Temple and its sub-temple Entoku-in Temple are within a walking distance. It is a fun to walk there through a narrow shopping street.

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