Feature Foto #8: Kiyomizu-dera

Today's Feature Foto is the doorway into the main Pagoda at 清水寺 (Kiyomizu-dera / Kiyomizu Temple) in Kyoto. The original site of this gorgeous Buddhist temple was first founded in 778 A.D. by a Buddhist priest from the Kita Hōso sect named Enchin. Due to fires that damaged the temple several times over the years, the building seen in this photo is from 1633.

The temple was named "Kiyomizu," or "clear water" after the nearby 音羽瀑布 (Otowa no Taki / Otowa's waterfall) originating from the hills that surround the temple. The fresh, clean water from the waterfall is one of the main attractions at the temple which contributes to the health and longevity of those who drink it. A visit to the temple wouldn't be complete without drinking a cupful of the Otowa no Taki water which is partially channeled into three streams that fall from overhead into a decorative pond. Visitors cross a small bridge over the pond and fill their cups with the therapeutic water as it falls from above.

The Hondo (main temple building) was built in devotion to Kannon in which a statue of the God is displayed. The Hondo houses one of the temple's most spectacular vantage points, with beautiful views of Kyoto-- the Kiyomizu-dera Stage, which also happens to be one of its most famous historic curiosities. The fame of the Kiyomizu-dera Stage comes from an Edo-period tradition of taking the 13-meter jump from the stage down onto the hillside below, the survival of which was believed to be rewarded with the granting of the jumper's wish. Only 85% of those who attempted it survived.

With all of the world-famous and stunningly beautiful sites to see in Kyoto, I think that the Kiyomizu-dera is sometimes omitted from travelers' lists of must-see places. I would strongly recommend that this wonderful temple NOT be skipped, however, as it's sure to leave a lasting impression on all who visit. I would especially recommend a visit in the autumn, when the Japanese maple trees that surround the site are in full, glorious colour. Please enjoy Kyoto-- one of the places I cherish most in this world.

If you have Google Earth, download Kiyomizu-dera's place marker.

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