Posts Tagged ‘ Kiyomizu-dera ’

Autumn in Japan ・日本の秋 — through the years.

Below I offer a few newly-found, but certainly not “new,” autumn photos taken over the years  (from 1984 and 2009). I’ve taken more recent ones, in more recent autumns in Japan, but I thought these would suffice for this year.  I may update if or when I run across more share-worthy photos.



Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion. Kyoto. 1984


Mist in Kurama.  October 2003.

Mist in Kurama. October 2003.


Looking towards Shinnyo-do Temple. Kyoto. November 2009.


Tea Break During Rice Harvest. Tsuda. 1984.


One of the more popular places from which to photograph Kiyomizu-dera. Fall 2001.

Kiyomizu-dera. Kyoto. Fall 2001.


On Jingu no michi, looking towards the Higashiyama. Kyoto. 2003.


Ladder. Kurama. November 2003.

Ladder. Kurama. November 2003.


Along Tetsugaku no Michi (“Philosopher’s Path”). Kyoto. 2003.

For much more on, and more photos from, Philosopher’s Path, click here.


Evening “light up” at Eikan-do Temple. Kyoto. 2003.

Eikan-do (see photo immediately above) is one of my favorite temples in Kyoto.  I highly recommend checking out Eikan-do’s website.  In May 2008 one of the head priests granted a group I was guiding an hour-long audience to discuss Eikan-do and some of the basic tenets of Buddhist theology and philosophy.  Disclosure:  I had a hand in editing one of Eikan-do’s web pages.

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One, more recent, additional photo:

Facing North on Kawabata Street, Kyoto. November 2009.


Kyoto’s Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺)

Note on Photos:  I took all the photos and snapshots below, on multiple trips to Kiyomizu-dera*. They go back as far as 20 years.  Different seasons, different times of day, snapped with various cameras (from a Pentax K-1000 to a Motorola Android phone, and several others).  Note how the light, composition, resolution and “feel” varies from photo to photo.

Kiyomizu-dera. Main Hall looking south. May 2010.

We have a history.

As with so many other places in Kyoto, I first visited Kiyomizu-dera in the fall of 1984, when I was an exchange student at nearby Kansai Gaidai (University).  Yet the earliest photos I can find are from 1990, when I got back to Japan to teach in a rural middle school in Hyogo Prefecture, a couple hours away from Kyoto.  Before getting sent to our various school assignments, though, a pack of us Hyogo Prefecture “JET Program” teachers took at day trip into Kyoto from Kobe and I’ve managed to find a couple photos from that trip.  Since then I’ve returned many times with various people and groups.  Though I now “guide” people to Kiyomizu-dera, it never fails to amaze me.  Many memories are wound-up with it, too.  .  .

Kiyomizu-dera Entrance, Niomon Guardian Gate (仁王門) in foreground. 2010.

Better late than never

I need to write more on Kyoto’s better-known sights.  Ryoan-ji temple, with its famous rock garden, is the only one I’ve so far written about.  I’ve photo-essayed on lesser-known (to the Westerner) shrinestemplesart and antique streets, Kyoto’s most famous flea market, the main train station, and coffee shops and restaurants.  But not so much the “Centerpiece Destinations.”  This is no definitive history or even textbook summary on Kiyomizu-dera.  Instead, I’ll just provide some general, solid information, good links, and photos that I hope will make those who’ve not yet traveled to Kyoto want to go. If you’ve already been, I hope this will help bring back some memories.

Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺) Buddhist Temple

One of the more popular places from which to photograph Kiyomizu-dera. October 1999.

Kiyomizu-dera means “Pure Water Temple.”  Pre-dating the establishment of Kyoto by 16 years, Kiyomizu-dera was founded in  778 C.E. by the Buddhist priest Echin.  The complex hugs and is built into the side of Mount Otowa, which itself is part of Kyoto’s long, continuous East-side Mountains (Higashiyama).  The  present layout and complex was rebuilt in 1633 under the patronage of the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu.  In 1994 Kiyomizu-dera was placed on UNESCO‘s registry of World Heritage Sites.  It’s also on Japan’s National Treasure list.


Jumping Off Kiyomizu’s Stage

One of Kiyomizu-dera’s main distinguishing features is its famous stage, or veranda, which juts out from the Main Hall over a ravine, affording visitors a great view of the mountain just across the ravine, southern Kyoto off to one’s right (see and click on photo below) and of other visitors almost 50 feet down below at the “Otowa no Taki” waterfall (see explanation and photos below).  The veranda’s held up by 139 massive keyaki (Japanese zelkova) pillars and more than 400 cypress cross-beams. . . without using a single nail.  It also spawned a Japanese saying or “kotowaza”  — “Leap off Kiyomizu’s stage”   清水の舞台から飛び降りる (きよみずのぶたいからとびおりる).  This translates into English as “Go for it,” or “Take the plunge.”

Looking directly west, past the southern side of the Pagoda. 2010.


Looking towards the famous “stage,” veranda. 2010.


CLICK on this one. View of Kyoto from the Stage/Veranda. 2010.


In front, looking towards Niomon. 2007.


Saimon, “West Gate,” with 3-tiered pagoda behind. 2010.

Jishu-jinja (Shinto Shrine)

Incorporated, but technically separate from, Kiyomizu-dera is Jishu-jina (“Jinja” meaning Shinto Shrine), which is dedicated to the Shinto deity of love and “good matches,” Okuninushi no Mikoto (his companion’s a rabbit).   Two stones, each set firmly in the ground near the shrine, are spaced about 30 feet (10 meters) apart.  If one can successfully walk from one rock to the other while thinking of their hoped-for love with eyes closed, the desired romance will ensue.  So goes the legend, and the daily practice, at Jinshu-jinja.


Tourists. Just through the Niomon, entering Kiyomizu-dera proper. 2011.


Walking on Sannenzaka towards Kiyomizudera (up and to the left). 2006.

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Three “Otowa no Taki” pics. . .  over 20 years.

Here’s some of what Judith Clancy, in her wonderful guidebook (which I highly recommend), Exploring Kyoto: On Foot in the Ancient Capital, says about the Otowa no Taki:

Just beyond the three restaurants is Otowa no Taki, the ‘Sound of Feathers Waterfall,’ from which water is channeled into three spouts that pour down from above.  Long-handled dippers are available for visitors to sample the clear, delicious water that inspired Echin to build his hermitage here, and which is the course of the temple’s popular name, which means ‘Temple of Pure Water.'”



August 1990.


Late September 2001.


Late May 2010.

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A 鳥’s-Eye View:  My Google Map of Kiyomizu-dera

“Grab” and move the image about, click on the little blue icons for information.

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Getting to Kiyomizu-dera

To quote extensively from this very good Kiyomizu-dera site:

[F]irst make your way up Ninen-zaka & Sannen-zaka walk, past the Omiyage shops until you reach the main gate of Kiyomizudera. . .  Walking from there into the temple you will walk under the Nio-mon or Gate of the Deva Kings. The Deva Kings, along with Korean lion-dogs (koma-inu) protect the temple from any evil that may enter. The right Deva King has his mouth open, pronouncing “A”, the first sound of Sanskrit while the other has his mouth closed, pronouncing “UN”, the last sound. Thus, it is thought that the Deva Kings represent the complete teachings of Buddha.

Continuing past the Nio-mon, you go up a second flight of steps to the Sai-mon (West Gate). Two more Deva Kings stand guard at this eight pillared gate built in the early 17th century.  To the gate’s left one can see the Shoro (Bell Tower) built in 1596, though the temple’s bell was cast in 1478.  Above the flying brace of the tower one can see the imperial Chrysantheum crest. . .


Afternoon sun on Jizo Bhodisattvas at Kiyomizu-dera. 2008.


*I write “Kiyomizu-dera” with the hyphen between the “Kiyomizu” and the “dera” to underscore the fact that the name of the temple is “Pure Water” (Kiyomizu  清水 ) “Temple” (dera  寺 ).  Most often in English it’s written as one long word:  “Kiyomizudera.”  The written Japanese is actually simpler, just three kanji, or Chinese-type characters, as shown in the title of this piece:   清水寺. So in Japanese it is one word, no hyphen.  But, again, I want English-only readers to better understand how the word is divided up.

Kiyomizu-dera ticket stub. From 2010.

Just Back from Japan.

I write this on Tuesday morning, June 1st.  My plane (from Houston, where I connected from Tokyo, to where I had traveled from Kyoto earlier in the morning…) touched down in Birmingham yesterday late afternoon.

Over the course of the next few days I’ll be updating LetsJapan.Wordpress.Com with various tales, galleries, advice, etc.  One thing that I’m certainly going to do is update the Autumn (2010) Trip information (tab at the top of this Home Page) as I’m now all the more energized to get cracking on getting people signed-up for what promises to be a wonderful trip to Kyoto and its environs this coming October.

Kiyomizu-dera. Kyoto. May 30, 2010.

秋  。。。autumn (Updated for 2011)


Note:  In 2011 I updated this post with a few photos I took Kyoto in November 2009; taken a little over a month after I first posted this piece.  After you (hopefully) enjoy this photo essay, I hope you’ll click over to my 2012 Autumn album.

The Takase Canal. Kiyamachi, Kyoto. November ’09.

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Autumn’s my favorite season.  I suppose it comes from being a native of Virginia, growing up just outside of Washington, D.C., where during my childhood autumn seemed to last forever.  Cousins lived — and now raise their own families — in the Shenandoah Valley.  My grandparents on my mother’s side lived in West Virginia when I was very young, and then moved over to Shenandoah, Virginia.  The glorious leaves, the cool crisp days and chilly nights, football season, Halloween, Thanksgiving, apples and apple cider and a slow, sweet transition into the Christmas Season.  As a teenager and then as a college student I found autumn the most romantic time of the dating year and most of my fondest memories of that aspect of my life were played-out against the backdrop of autumn.

Kurama.  Just north of Kyoto.  October 2003.

Kurama. Just north of Kyoto. October 2003.

The first time I went to live in Japan, near Hirakata-shi and within about a half-hour of Kyoto, or Osaka, depending on which direction one takes the Keihan Line, was in August.  So I was able to experience the transition from summer into autumn in Japan.  Through two living experiences in Japan and a couple of dozen of 1- to 3-weeks trips there over the past 10 years, I count autumn as my favorite time in Japan, too.

Kyoto. 2003.

Autumn in Japan:   its heavy, oppressive, debilitating humidity takes a holiday, the Japanese maples (もみじ) transform into millions of delicate blazes of red and gold, lengthening shadows and deepening shades of red and orange, charcoal-sweet smell of roasted yams (still in the skin, of course) wafting about in both city and countryside.  “Sweater Weather.”  The sycamores that line Ni-jo Street in Kyoto, east of the Kamo River.  Comforting memories of dear people who’ve wafted like sweet smoke in and out of my life — or was I the shade that merged into and out of theirs’? — all make autumn in Japan particularly special for me.

I remember one cool autumn night in Kyoto, around 2003 when I and my traveling companion had just flown across the Pacific, gone through the Rites of Immigration, Customs and Baggage Claim at Kansai International Airport, taken the “Haruka” train from the airport to Kyoto Station, been picked up at the station by my Sensei, my Japanese language teacher from college, and taken to his and his wife’s home in North Kyoto.  We ate some, drank a little beer and sake and then turned in after a long, long, long day.  The last thing I remember hearing as I drifted off was the sound of a man singing, almost chanting, just outside the window, pushing his cart of roasted sweet potatoes through the narrow Kyoto streets, plodding on by with his voice rising and falling   —   “R o a s ted yaaaa…ms!  R o a s ted  yaaaa…ms”  (“yaaahhhhkeee   eeemohhhh,  yaaahhhkeee  eeemohhhh…“).  He sounded elderly.  Was he?   I think it was the most beautiful song I had ever heard.

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G a l l e r y

Kiyomizu Dera.  November 2003.



Canal from Lake Biwa. Kyoto. November 2009.


Harvesting Rice. Near my house. Hirakata. Autumn 1984.


Leaves in Stone Basin. Shoren-in. November 2009.


At Shinnyo-do Temple. Kyoto. November 2009.


Persimmons (柿). Kyoto, Okazaki, Market. November 2009.


Ladder. Kurama. November 2003.


Katano-san. Near my house. Autumn 1984.


Friend at Eikan-do (永観堂) “Light Up.” Kyoto. November 2009.


Along the road, near Chion-in. November 2009.


Overcast day in Pontocho. Kyoto. November 2009.


Wall at Shinnyodo Temple. Kyoto. November 2009.


Kurodani-dera. Kyoto. November 2009.

More on Kurodani-dera here.