Must-visit in japan – Kiyomizu-dera

Founded in 780 AD, on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the wooded hills east of Kyoto, Kiyomizudera is one of the most celebrated temples in Japan. Literally translating to “Pure Water Temple”, this awe-inspiring site derives its name from the pure waters of the Otowa falls.


Image Courtesy: Mr Hicks46 used under the Creative Commons Licence

Legend has it that in the year 778, Priest Enchin had a dream to go up Kizu-gawa River to find a fountain of pure water. Inspired by this divine revelation, he set off on his journey to the waterfall at the foot of Mt. Otowa. While travelling up, he was presented a block of sacred wood by Gyoei Koji, a Buddhist hermit who had devoted his life to self-discipline there.

Enchin used this wooden block to carve a statue of a Buddhist deity, Kannon Bosatsu, and enshrined it in the hut that Gyoei had been living in till then.

Must-visit in japan - Kiyomizu-dera

Image Courtesy: Duncan Taralrud-Bay used under the Creative Commons Licence

Two years later, a military General Sakanoue no Tamuramaro came up into the mountain and met Enchin, who taught him about the merciful teachings of Kannon Bosatsu. This led Tamuramaro to become a pious devotee of the Kannon and he later devoted a hall for the statue. This was the origin of the Kiyomizudera temple.

The Main Hall, designated a National Treasure, houses the Eleven Headed and Thousand Armed Kannon Bodhisattva. It is dedicated to the goddess of mercy and compassion, but most visitors come for the magnificence of its height and view.  So well-known is the view that the Japanese have an idiom for it – “jumping from the veranda of Kiyomizu Temple” meaning that they’re about to undertake a particularly bold or daring adventure.

You can also gaze upon the Jizo Buddha statues adorned with colorful cloths. Jizo Buddha offers protection to travelers, women and children.

Added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites, in 1994, this magnificent temple is worth a visit. So plan your trip around this Must-visit in japan – Kiyomizu-dera.

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