Japan travel · Travel

Japan travel- Kyoto’s hillside Kiyomizu Temple and old district

My second full day in Kyoto was temples, giant temple gates, old neighborhoods and a shrine to a dead warlord. I started with Kiyomizu Temple, located on a hill in the east, then stopped by Chionin Temple, went on to Nanenji Temple and finally Heian temple, which is based on Chinese Tang Dynasty temples. It was a long walk that took up half a day and required lots of sweat, but no tears, as well a little sunburn (really).

Kiyomizu or Pure Water Temple is an attractive Buddhist temple complex views overlooking the hill and the city. I could see it from my hotel on the hill and it was a relatively straightforward 20-minute walk.

The front features two tall pagodas, then you enter the main complex. After that, there are a few small shrines including one devoted to Okuninushi, the god of love, and a small waterfall (which is basically just a trickle) with supposedly pure water, which the temple was named after, that people lined up to drink from. Right below the temple is a neighborhood of traditional shops and teahouses, part of the Higashiyama District. It’s said to be old Kyoto, with wooden buildings and independent shops, cafes and restaurants, and I don’t doubt it. It’s a pleasant atmosphere and there are no cars so you’re free to walk right on the streets and lanes.
Kiyomizu Temple’s main building
Kiyomizu Temple’s front towers
Okuninushi, the god of love and “good matches” and his rabbit messenger, at Kiyomizu Temple
Walking down a street in Higashiyama District

Higashiyama District again

Walking west from Higashiyama District, I briefly visited Chionin Temple, which is Buddhist. Chionin’s entrance features a giant wooden gate, the 24-meter-tall Sanmon Gate which is Japan’s largest such gate. The actual temple was undergoing renovation and was completely covered by a facade that made it seem like a wooden building. I’d seen the structure when I came in but walked around trying to find the temple before realizing that that wooden building was it. The fact they’d covered the entire temple so thoroughly was because the renovation was going to go on for 7 years (2012-2019)! The Japanese don’t mess around when it comes to doing things carefully and thoroughly, unlike a certain giant Asian neighbor.
Chionin Temple’s massive Sanmon gate
I walked by this and kept on looking for Chionin Temple’s main building until I found out this was it.

Here are more photos of Kiyomizu Temple and Higashiyama District:


The “waterfall” which Kiyomizu Temple is named after

View of Kyoto; the lone tower is the city’s only highrise
IMG_0030  IMG_0038IMG_0084  IMG_0094  IMG_0068
Small stone deities adorned with frocks on the Kiyomizu Temple grounds
IMG_0071 IMG_0075
These were a bunch of tourists, possibly mainland Chinese.
Geishas or dress-up tourists? If the latter, then the make-up and dress were done very well.
Random houses on a random street 



2 thoughts on “Japan travel- Kyoto’s hillside Kiyomizu Temple and old district

  1. I think Kiyomizudera is my favourite temple in Kyoto! They must be doing a very thorough overhaul if Chionin will be closed for 7 years… Since it’s the headquarters for the Pure Land Sect of Buddhism, they must want to do it well. I’m glad you got to experience this amazing city and its history. Lovely photos!


    1. I really liked Kiyomizudera as well and it is in my top 2 next to Nanzenji (can’t decide which I liked more). I thought that is a crazy length of time to be doing renovations too. Thanks, I’ve got a few more Kyoto posts and photos to put out soon.


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