A grand viewing deck to commune with nature.
That is the principal attraction of Kiyomizu-dera (Clear Water Temple), a Buddhist shrine near Kyoto, founded in 798 AD, whose main hall is dedicated to the eleven headed, thousand armed Bodhisattva. Highly venerated for its wish granting abilities, and brought out for public viewing only a few times a year.
The wooden deck – a stage almost – extending from the main hall, juts out over a sheer precipice and is supported by one hundred and thirty nine columns. Each over fifteen meters high. Both the hall and the deck were rebuilt in 1638 following traditional methods of construction without the use of a single nail.
A tradition, now banned, held that a person who survived a jump from the stage unscathed, would have his wish granted! And that is how, we were told, “Jumping off the Dera” became the Japanese colloquial term for ‘taking the plunge’!
Risking life and limb in the hope of having our travel dreams fulfilled didn’t appeal much. So sis and I settled for the spectacularly verdant views instead. Along with several hundred other tourists and pilgrims with the same intention. All the while praying fervently that the 16th century structural engineers had accounted for population inflation. Thankfully, a spot at the far end of a walkway, afforded a more peaceful perspective of the scene.
Time permitting, and for a hundred yen more than the daytime admission fee of 300Y, one can get a more atmospheric and grander view of the illuminated temple at night. And from images online, timing a visit when the cherry trees are in full bloom or when the surrounding hills are under a blanket of snow, might be even more rewarding.
I featured the Otowa no taki (Sound of Feathers) waterfall in an earlier post. The slideshow contains more images of the shrine and below are a few from the two kilometre long pedestrian approach through the historic district of Higashiyama.
76 thoughts on “The Temple Of Pure Water”
Ah yes, I remember that lovely walk through the streets of Higashiyama and the enormous wooden viewing deck. Amazing to think that it has remained in such good shape for the last 300+ years! I had no idea about the tradition of the jump, someone would have to be very desperate to even consider it…
My thoughts exactly James. Unlikely many would have survived that jump. Sounds more like the preferred suicide point, and life must have taken a turn for the better, for the few that did survive 🙂 Higashiyama was lovely, although the only place in Japan that felt a bit contrived, like the old towns in China!
I was very pleased to see the supports for the deck, would have freaked me out otherwise.
You only see them on the way out, so just knowing they exist, is barely enough to stave off panic 😀
So interesting! Rituals, traditions and history is so important, at the same time I am glad the jump is forbidden now…
I wouldn’t have survived witnessing one Bente?!! 😀
I went to Kiyomizo-dera myself during the lunar new year in 2011. I loved it, as I loved all of Kyoto. I didn’t know about the jumping off the stage to have wishes granted, but I learned about drinking the water from the three fountains for wisdom, health and longevity. Your pictures of the temple and complex are beautiful, as always, Madhu.
Here’s my post about it, if you’d like to see: http://catbirdinkyoto.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/golden-pavilions-rock-gardens-bamboo-groves-and-white-gloved-train-conductors/
Thank you, and I enjoyed your post too Cathy. Wish we had more time in Kyoto.
Me too, Madhu. I would love to go back there. 🙂
looks amazing 🙂 wanna visit so much 🙂
I wouldn’t mind returning either 🙂 Thank your for stopping by.
Reblogged this on yasarnorman.
Thank you Yasar.
Natsukashii, ne! How I miss Japan. Kansai in particular.
I can imagine. I would love to return and explore on my own someday. Thank you for the visit and comment 🙂
Lovely, and the title grabbed me. It must have been an experience filled with instant inspiration.
Thank you Sally. It was. Would have been even more so, with fewer people, but that is near impossible in most Eastern tourist sites these days 🙂
Looking like a wonderful place to visit … and count me in as one who finds rituals and traditions interesting.
I suppose we all do, even when we do not believe in them. Thank you Frank 🙂
Truly magical place, Madhu and I am so envious
It was a lovely place indeed Dallas,. I hope you will get there someday 🙂
interesting and asa always lovely set of pictures to complement it .
Thank you Soni! How have you been? Your posts don’t seem to be showing up on my reader or email!!
I am good Madhu. expecting baby no. 2 in feb and hence feeling extremely lazy. I have been drawing a lot lately and posting drawings on my Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Soni-Raj/165001363656992?sk=photos_albums
let me know your thoughts on this. That said I have been reading a lot though I have been quiet for some time. 🙂
take care and keep up the good work.
For those who took the plunge, I wonder if anyone witnessed their dreams coming true? My wish is that they did! A nice story about Kyoto, I’ve always wanted to visit. Have a wonderful day, Madhu!
I hope they did too! Thank you Elisa! 🙂
I’m so glad that jumping tradition is now banned. 🙂
What a magical place to visit, Madhu. Loved your pics. 🙂
Me too! Thank you Sylvia 🙂
Ah, Madhu, you always take us through such wonderful places!!! Thank you, my dear! 🙂
Thank you! It is my pleasure to have you come along on the ride Marina 🙂
I’m confused, jumping off of the Dera into what? a lake? It’s a beautiful place and your photos are wonderful 🙂
No Gilly, the cliff!! There is a path below that leads out, so I guess they would land some where near that, or roll downhill perhaps? Have no idea how one survives that, unless he/she is a cat!! 🙂
stunning setting, sublime building ….
You are right! I think it is the predominance of the setting in traditional far Eastern architecture, that makes them so sublime!
You have been to such lovely places. You should be writing a travel column for the Daily telegraph.
The British Health and safety people have obviously been there
Ha, ha, I have no doubt Japanese safety standards are quite as high 🙂 Now if this were in India…..I might have been tempted to send my sister ahead to test it!! Just kidding 😀
Health and safety people can be a bit too strict at times. My Indian colleagues have got used to the health and safety rules in the UK.
The shrine is listing toward the precipice… I would have been praying fervently too! It’s a gorgeous place, of course. It would be a real treat in snow or in cherry blossom time. The architecture endlessly fascinates me too.
It really was a beautiful place George. As was all of Kyoto. We timed our visit for an autumn festival in a place called Takayama, so we missed the cherry trees and the snow. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts 🙂
To construct a viewing deck as an integral part of a temple is such an interesting concept – places of worship usually being inward looking. I love learning about all the different ways people think and view the world – even if I’m not travelling learning about different cultures opens up my world. Lovely captures Madhu. 🙂
Thank you Meredith. I feel it might have also been used for music and dance performances. I would have loved to catch a glimpse of that thousand armed idol 🙂
I love visiting such sites – but the crowds rob one of the peace and tranquility, I suppose.
Oh they do Eric! And it isn’t always possible to work around them. Especially when you are in a group, as I was here, accompanying my sister. The reason why hubby & I usually travel independently 🙂
Amazing that it was built without a nail. I love the photos in this post and in the earlier one about waterfall. Beautiful.
Thank you Judy. It is an amazing feat! Traditional temples and houses in Kerala are constructed without nails as well, but there are none there on this scale!
Beautiful post, Madhu. Thank you for sharing it. -Max-
Thank you Max 🙂
I love Japan. It’s so organized and beautiful. The only downside is being snowed in for several days at a hotel in Tokyo and not able to do business during winter.
Oh yes!!! They are so polite, and gracious and law abiding, it is almost a culture shock for an Indian 😀
As I was reading your post I was reminded again of the centuries long traditions that seem evident in so many countries, something we seem to lack in this country. To see this temple when the cherry trees are blossoming would be spectacular. Thank you for the history behind this temple. Your photography would be reason enough to travel to some of these places, but the history you provide makes these areas of the world so enticing. 🙂
Thank you LuAnn. Hope all is well with you and Terry 🙂
What an amazing place to visit!! Thank you Madhu for sharing your adventures!
You are most welcome Anne 🙂
Beautiful pictures and some interesting facts behind them Madhu
Thank you. I am glad you enjoyed them Suzanne.
I cannot believe all those people on the deck!
I love the slide show of the pedestrian approach, a nice look at a slice of daily life.
It was jam packed Angeline. It must feel really special to visit in the early morning.
ah, madhu … you’re taking me right back to my amazing week in kyoto!!! i really enjoyed that whole area around Kiyomizu-dera. i can’t wait to go back next year!
Glad this stirred fond memories Stephen. I would love to return myself. Being on an escorted tour felt very restrictive, although we did try to wander off on our own a bit. Would be wonderful to have at least a week in the area.
My first thought when I saw your opening photo was whether or not it was structurally safe; so many visitors. Lifting iron sandals with a post and your wishes granted. Interesting tradition.
I wonder when these little fables transition into traditions?? But they are fun as long as they aren’t discriminative 🙂
Strange where some sayings come from, isn’t it? As always you educate while providing us with the most amazing views of the world. I am constantly grateful.
Thank you for your ever generous comments Valentine. Much appreciated 😉
I’ve been to Japan 4 times, 2 times in Kyoto… I could live there! 🙂 I miss Japan…
I can imagine. I went with no expectations, and returned a huge fan 🙂 Thank you for stopping by to share your thoughts Melanie.
Thanks Niranjan. Shall be over to check out what you have been up to soon 🙂
Not hard to imagine where all those crazy Japanese game shows come from!
Ha ha, good one Patti! 😀 Their controlled, pacifist, almost docile behaviour belies the violence in those games!
It’s a beautiful temple, but like you, I’d be a little anxious about whether it was intended and built to hold so many people at once. You might have all taken the plunge at once and wished to land unscathed. 😉
I would have sent sis out first, but she had the same idea 😀
Thank you 🙂