One of the most famous temples in Kyoto is the Kiyomizu-dera which is an independent Buddhist temple on the eastern side of Kyoto. This temple is listed as one of the UNESCO world heritage site to preserve and visit. Kiyomizu is dedicated to Kannon, the 11-face Buddhist goddess of mercy. The original temple was founded in 804 by a warrior lord who converted to Buddhism after meeting a monk on a hunting trip who admonished him for killing a deer to give the animal’s blood to his pregnant wife. It and other buildings have been repeatedly destroyed in fires and battles and been rebuilt at least 10 times. The main hall of the present temple was built in 1633 by the Tokugawa Shogunate.
While the main temple building is dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy, there were several other interesting Gods there for worship as well. One of them is this black fortune god called Daikoku who is a happy-looking god of wealth, farmers, food, and good fortune. He has 2 weapons and if you could lift up his weapons then wealth will be granted to you. The smaller of the 2 is a vajra-hilted staff and the larger one was a naginata which is something like a halberd. I could hardly lift the smaller one even when I used all my strength!
The other popular god in this temple is Ōkuninushi, the God of love and marriages. This is located in the temple grounds at the Jinsu Shrine. Many believers flock from all across the country to come here and pray for blessings in marriage or love. You could even get divine love advise and ask the priest to translate it for you.
I wrote my love hope and wishes to the messenger god of love and hopefully it comes true! Jishu Shrine also possesses a pair of “love stones” placed 18 meters apart, which lonely visitors can try to walk between with their eyes closed. Success in reaching the other stone with their eyes closed implies that the pilgrim will find love, or true love. One can be assisted in the crossing, but this is taken to mean that a go-between will be needed. The person’s romantic interest can assist them as well.
The distance between the 2 love stones is about 60 feet but it isn’t in a direct straight line so it can be somewhat of a challenge! I didn’t try but if you are a single person and want to know if you’ll be with someone or dating and want to know if you would get married, you could give it a go!
In English we have the popular expression ” take the plunge” and in Japan their version is “to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu”. Apparently, in the Edo Period (1603-1867), worshipers leaped of the edge of the platform with the belief that if they survived their 13-meter fall their prayers would be answered. According to one record at least 234 people made the leap between 1694 and 1864, with the youngest being 12 and the oldest 80. The survival rate was 85 percent. Of course this practice is now prohibited.
Kiyomizu-dera means “Clear Waters” and this is a tribute to the Otowa waterfall in the temple grounds. The 3 channels of water that fall to the ground are known as sacred golden waters that have magical curative powers and the ability to grant wishes. Traditionally, the three streams water symbolize the Buddha, Buddhist Law and the Priesthood, and the temple monks would perform ‘takigyo‘ rites by standing under the ‘purifying’ stream of water. Today, pilgrims believe that drinking from the right waterfall makes one intelligent, the middle beautiful, and the left will bring longevity. However, some Japanese believe that you must choose only two. If you are greedy and drink from all three, you invite misfortune upon yourself. I only drank from one but I’m not telling which!
The temple grounds and gardens are very calming and tranquil. But if you just head outside, you will be caught up in the hustle and bustle of the Chawan-zaka or Teapot Lane which has tons of shops selling souvenirs and food!
Even though this area is highly commercialism, it does retain a fraction of its old school charm with the structure of the buildings and the dozen little alley ways sloping uphill. If I could visit Kyoto again, I would definitely like to spend a couple of days in a Ryokan or a traditional Japanese bed and breakfast inn.
On the whole I find my visit to Kiyomizu-dera a rather fruitful one and I would rate it as a must visit site for travelers heading to Kyoto. The scenery is gorgeous and the whole area is seeped in deep and rich Japanese culture. I guess you can sense the deep appreciation I have for this place base on the amount of photos I took there!