Photo By: Elin Chow
Official Website: Kiyomizudera Temple
Rise and shine! We started our third day of our 7D6N Osaka - Kyoto - Nara - Kobe Trip early this morning. After packing up, we checked out of our Airbnb apartment in Kyoto. Our destination for the day was to visit the famous Kiyomizudera Temple in the eastern part of Kyoto before embarking on a train journey to Osaka.
While most hotels would be able to hold your luggage even after you have checked out, this was unfortunately not an option if you are staying at an Airbnb apartment. We were unable to store our luggage like we usually do at hotels. Since we do not want to drag our luggage around, we have to find a temporary storage for them.
You will find coin lockers throughout the Kyoto station building. In fact, almost all major stations in Japan have coin lockers. The coin lockers comes in various sizes and are available at fees of 300 Yen, 500 Yen and 700 Yen.
However, please note that there are a huge demand for coin lockers in Kyoto Station and they tend to get full really fast, especially the largest sized ones. So if you are planning to store your luggage in the coin lockers, please make sure that you get there as early as 7.00 am.
The Baggage Room is open from 8.00 am to 9.00 pm daily and the fee is 500 Yen per luggage for one day storage. Generally, we find the Baggage storage service cheaper and more convenient than coin lockers. Why do I say so? Well, it is because we carry one large and one medium-sized luggage. To store them, we will need to rent one large and one medium-sized coin lockers, which will cost us 1,200 Yen (700 Yen + 500 Yen) in total. However, the total fee to store our luggage at the Baggage Room is only 1,000 Yen. This is also why we decided to use the Baggage Room instead of the coin lockers.
The luggage storage service enables us to do sightseeing without having to worrying about carrying heavy luggage.
After leaving our luggage at the Baggage Room, we made our way to the Kyoto Bus Station to take a bus to Kiyomizudera Temple. Buses are the best way to get to those areas of Kyoto that are not easily accessible by trains. Since there are no train stations near Kiyomizudera Temple, the best way to get to it is by the Kyoto city bus. Of course, you can also get to the temple by taxi, but this is definitely not going to be the most economical way.
The Kiyomizudera Temple is also reachable by train. Take the Keihan Railway and alight at Kiyomizu-Gojo Station. The temple is located about a 20 -25 minutes walk from the station. So, if you are arriving by train, be prepared to take a long walk.
In Kyoto, buses are boarded on the left side through the back door and the fare are paid only when you exit via the front door. You can pay at the coin machine in the front by the driver's seat.
Buses are probably the cheapest mode of transportation in Kyoto. The fare is a flat 230 Yen for adult and 120 Yen for children under the age of 12 if you travel within the designated area. You can be paid either by cash or by the IC cards. If you are paying by cash, you will need to pay by exact fare as there will not be any small change given.
If you plan to use the buses a lot to travel around Kyoto, you might want to consider buying a City-Bus All Day Pass, which will provide unlimited travel on the city buses for one day. The City-Bus All Day Pass cost 500 Yen for adult and 250 Yen for children and will pay off only if you plan to use the buses more than three times that day. Please note that it can only be used within the designated areas.
However, the buses tend to get extremely crowded during rush hours and it can be very time-consuming to get around due to heavy traffic conditions. Announcements are made in English and other languages as well as Japanese. There are also electronic signs with the next bus stop displayed in front of the bus.
We alighted at Gojo-Zaka Bus Stop. Kiyomizudera Temple is located high up a hill and is accessible via a fairly steep road. The approach to the temple is lined with beautiful wooden houses, traditional tea houses and shops selling souvenirs and traditional wares. Simply follow the tourist crowds if you are unsure which way to go.
However, the attraction was not very wheelchair or stroller friendly. Even though the temple has put in significant efforts to make the attraction wheelchair accessible, people with mobility problems might still find it a challenge to visit and move around the area.
After a steep ascend, we finally arrived at the gorgeous entrance to the temple. Standing at the entrance of the temple is the vermillion-colored Nio-mon gate, a two storey structure guarded by two Koma-inu (Lion dog)
Kiyomizudera Temple, also known as Pure Water Temple, is one of the oldest and most popular temple in Kyoto. Its name is derived from the pure water flowing from the Otawa Waterfall. An iconic landmark of Kyoto, the temple is registered as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.
Kiyomizudera Temple is open from 6.00 am to 6.00 pm daily. However, hours of operation is extended to 6.30 pm on weekends and holidays from mid April through July and everyday in August and September. You can check its operation hours from its official website.
Outside the main hall's entrance of the temple, you will find various other temple buildings and a ticket office. Among which is Sanju-no-to, known to be the tallest three-storied pagoda in Japan. The pagoda is renovated and repainted in Vermillion color in 1987.
While the general grounds of the temple are free to wander, an entrance fee is required in order to enter the temple's Main Hall (Hondo). Admission to the temple is 400 Yen per person. Unlike our visit to the Tenryuji Temple in Arashiyama (or any other temples in Kyoto), we decided to pay the admission fee to enter the Main Hall this time round.
The Main Hall of the temple is built on the steep cliff of Mt Otowa using a traditional Japanese method of construction. No nails are used to constructed this impressive wooden structure. The entire wooden structure is supported by 18 giant pillars made from over 400-year old Zelkova trees. It was truly a sight to behold.
From a distance, the entire wooden structure looks fragile. But surprisingly, it was incredibly durable and well-maintained, surviving over 1,200 years in its original form. Furthermore, it is highly earthquake-resistant even on a steep hill.
The Main Hall of the temple houses a small statue of the eleven faced, thousand armed Kannon Bodhisattva. However, we did not enter the Main Hall to catch a glimpse of the Kannon Bodhisattva statue. In fact, only very few people are interested in the prime object of worship of the temple.
Instead, we were attracted by the wide-open veranda that juts out from the main hall over the hillside, just like anyone else. Called the Kiyomizu Stage, it is undoubtedly the main attraction of the temple. This is also what attracts the thousands of tourists flocking to the temple every single day!
Standing at 13 metres tall (almost equal to a four-storey high building), the stage offers a spectacular view of the cherry blossom during Spring and fall colors during Autumn. During Autumn, the stage is surrounded by a sea of red and yellow leaves amd is always bustling with people eager to capture the beauty on their camera.
Just behind the Main Hall, you will find Jishu shrine, a shrine dedicated to the deity of love and matchmaking. In front of the shrine, there are two stones, each positioned 18 metres apart. Legend says that if you can find your way from one to the other with your eyes closed, you will have luck finding love.
Passing the Jishu Shrine, you will arrive at the Okunoin Hall, which is a smaller version of the Main Hall. Just like the Main Hall, the Okunoin Hall also has a wide open stage, but much more smaller, and is constructed using the same unique method.
Just like Kiyomizu stage, the smaller stage at Okunoin Hall is extremely noisy and insanely crowded. The elevated wooden walkway is filled with hundred of pictures crazy tourists and its smaller size also made it more difficult to move around.
The view was certainly much more impressive from here. Far in the distance is the city of Kyoto, with Kyoto Tower standing proudly against the blue sky. The autumn colors are especially stunning in their full swing andthe Main Hall looks amazing being surrounded by colorful leaves. Absolutely stunning!
Following a paved path through the trees down the hill, you will find Otowa Waterfall at the base of the temple. The water from the waterfall fall from three separate streams into a pond. According to legend, each stream of water is said to have different benefits.
Drinking the sacred water from the waterfall is believed to bring longevity, success in studies or luck in love. However, it will be considered greedy to drink from all three streams, so make sure you choose carefully. To drink, use the tin cap attached to long poles collect the water from the stream.
Passing the Otowa Waterfall, we continued along a stone paved path lined with hundreds of maple trees, forming the perfect fall colors. Enjoy a relaxing stroll amongst the hundreds of maple trees that erupted into a sea of red and yellow colors in Autumn.
Exiting from the temple, we continued our way down Sannen-Zaka and Ninen-Zaka, a steep downwards-sloping shopping street that leads to Yasaka Shrine in the Gion District.
The street is lined with traditional wooden shophouses selling talismans, incenses, paper fortunes, sweets, pottery, pickles and other usual tourists souvenirs. There are also plenty of restaurants and tea houses to refresh yourself after a tiring day of exploring. All in all, it is a great place to get some souvenirs and gifts for yourself and your loved ones, so do take your time to explore these streets.
We stumbled upon this restaurant called Saryo Seihan - Tei while looking for somewhere to eat lunch. Tucked in a little alley, off the main shopping street, the restaurant specializes in soba and Udon.
It was a very cozy restaurant with a pleasant atmosphere. English menu with pictures is available, but choices are a little limited.
Price: 1,250 Yen
Both my husband and I ordered Cold Buckwheat noodles with Tempura. Complimentary tea or water was served upon being seated and are refillable at the self-serve station to your heart's content. Although a little pricey, the quality of food and service offered were very high. We have an very enjoyable dining experience.
Being one of the major attraction in Kyoto, Kiyomizudera Temple is definitely a must-visit. I suggest allocating at least 2-3 hours for your visit to the temple. When visiting, remember to bring your camera along as there will be plenty of opportunities for photography around the area, especially during the cherry blossom and fall seasons.
If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 7D6N Osaka - Kyoto - Nara - Kobe Trip Itinerary + Overview for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 7 days in Japan. For anyone planning your first trip to Japan but have no idea where to start, you should read my "How To Plan A Trip To Japan" post.