The Temple Of Pure Water

From Ipad 276 copy

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.

From Ipad 288 copy

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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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

76 thoughts on “The Temple Of Pure Water

  1. 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.

    1. I wonder when these little fables transition into traditions?? But they are fun as long as they aren’t discriminative 🙂

    1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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. 🙂

  4. 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.

    1. Oh yes!!! They are so polite, and gracious and law abiding, it is almost a culture shock for an Indian 😀

    1. 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!

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