The Cleansing Waters Of The Temizuya

Ritual cleansing prior to worship, is an age old practice. The use of water to purify oneself, being obligatory in most world religions until today.

Traditionally, this purification was done at a river, stream or seashore.  As religions evolved, ablution fountains and Lavers started appearing in the outer courts of places of worship. The temple tank symbolised the ocean in Hindu shrines, although running tap water is taking its place in space starved cities.

Temizuya Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto

A Temizuya is a water ablution pavilion at the entrance to most Shinto shrines in Japan, for the cleansing rite known as Temizu.

Before entering a shrine, one is expected to rinse both hands with the dipper provided.  Next the mouth is rinsed with water sipped from the cupped left hand, and spat out beside the fountain. Sipping water directly from the ladle or swallowing the water is considered unclean. Finally the hands and the dipper are rinsed again, before returning the dipper to its stand.


The Kiyomizu Dera temple has another water feature besides the Temizuya – the Otowa no taki (Sound of Feathers) waterfall – that sits just below the main hall of the temple, and is a major attraction because of the wish granting properties attributed to its sacred waters. The line to drink from one of the three fountains was miles long, and I had to squeeze in between two hopefuls for this shot (below), after signing reassurances that I wasn’t going to cut the queue 🙂

Sacred waterfall

One is expected to drink from any one of the three fountains whose waters are supposed to grant health, longevity or wisdom respectively. Why not drink from all three? Because that is considered greedy and said to invite bad luck three times over! I was sure of my choice. But I balked at negotiating that long, long line, and opted to watch instead.

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

43 thoughts on “The Cleansing Waters Of The Temizuya

  1. You’re amazing .. I just love to be here in your backpack .. and you take me to those amazing places and – tell me the a story. How delicate this truly is – and how far advanced both Japan and China has been compare to the rest of us. Thank you so much for the ride.

    1. I didn’t….opted to people watch!
      It would have been health, if I had the energy to negotiate that queue 🙂

  2. Can’t go far without health, Madhu. I really love these photos, especially the last one. Amazing to experience all these cultures with you.

  3. So interesting, Madhu. I’d find it difficult to choose between health, longevity and wisdom. I really would like to be greedy. 😀 That water dragon is quite something!

  4. we loved the washing ritual when we were in japan long ago .. thanks for explaining it all so well … we wanted to buy a dragon sculpture to take home but could not find one anywhere, even with our japanese friends to help! beautiful article madhu 🙂

  5. How fascinating Madhu. I like that they have a sort of bad luck thing for greedy people wanting all three…I like that a lot

  6. M already a fan of Culturs, rituals of Asian countries(thnx to my asian drama addiction that introduced me to these amzing places) and with this post I want to be greedy…not for drinking water 3 times but to visit this place n to click photos……..
    Loveelllyyyyy pics n great post..

  7. An interesting post and I particularly love that last picture. The joy from the central figure’s smile in such a serene setting reaches out to you when you look at it. Lovely! (Although with all those crowds it may not have seemed serene while you were actually there!?)

    1. Thanks Cee.
      I think my comments on your blog are going into spam! ‘Likes’ and pingbacks are not working either!! You might want to unspam me 😀

  8. Did any one tell you what the water tasted like? In Florida, explorer Ponce de Leon was in search of the Fountain of Youth. Some believe he found it in St. Augustine, but the water there is not tasty. It has a sulphur smell and taste.

    Love the photos and background, Madhu.

  9. Your photography, as always Madhu, is wonderful. I just love the rich traditions and history of the area that you weave throughout your posts. I feel I am learning so much about the world through your eyes. Thank you.

  10. “…The use of water to purify oneself …” – well, at least I daily hope, taking a warm shower, that I’ll become more and more innocent …

  11. Great images and information. I think health is most impportant. Does everyone drink from the same containers held out to the water? I was just wondering as I didn’t quite understand how it all works. I would have to have my own cup. I’m OCD about so many things and I think that might have been one. I’m enjoying the visual and history through your eyes. Thank you for the vacation.
    p.s. Nice entry for Cee’s challenge.

  12. I love the greedy aspect–I would love to see this for myself. I appreciate your efforts to get pictures and I hope no threats were made 🙂

  13. Beautiful photography as always Madhu, Thanks for sharing my friend I love it 🙂

  14. That is very intriguing. The dragon is magical. I think the architecture of the temple that let the water running from the top is an aesthetics design. The greedy and bad luck reminded me the Chinese tradition — never 10, thus 9 is a lucky number.
    Beautiful post!

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