~Wikipedia and Google images
Located halfway up Otowa Mountain in the eastern part of Kyoto City, Kiyomizu-dera is a historic temple that was established in 778, even before Kyoto became the capital of Japan. Kiyomizu-dera (the temple of clear water) was named after Otowa Waterfall. Water from a spring in the mountain has been falling there since its foundation. Fifteen colorfully-painted halls and pagodas stand in its verdant precincts.
The Main Hall (Hondo) of the temple is designated as a national treasure. The temple has many other important cultural properties including the Deva gate, west gate, three-storied pagoda and bell tower. In 1994, it was registered on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List as one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto.
The two most famous places of the temple are the Main Hall, where the Eleven Headed and Thousand Armed Kannon Bodhisattva, the goddess of mercy - which is famous for the power of answering prayers - is enshrined and Kiyomizu Stage, which is the veranda of the Main Hall extended over the mountainside.
Kiyomizu Stage was built using a special method; huge 12-meter high keyaki (Japanese Zelkova) pillars were assembled without using a single nail and the floor was installed using more than 410 cypress boards. The View of the city center of Kyoto from the Stage is magnificent. "To jump off the stage at Kiyomizu," is a famous Japanese expression that is equivalent to the phrase, "to take the plunge." This refers to an Edo period tradition that held that, if one were to survive a 13 meter jump from the stage, one's wish would be granted. Two hundred thirty-four jumps were recorded in the Edo period and, of those, 85% survived. The practice is now prohibited for obvious reasons.
There are several other attractions that are on the temple grounds such as the many waterfalls that are on the mountainside. One waterfall in particular separates into 3 different sections where many people come to drink the water by collecting it in tin cups. The water is said to have therapeutic properties and each "section" of the waterfall has different characteristics such as, health, longevity, and success in studies.
There is also a shrine Jishu-jinja Shrine on the grounds, and praying there is said to help one succeed in finding an appropriate love match. People seeking a romantic partner can be seen walking between two prominent stones with their eyes closed. The stones are about 6 meters/20 feet apart. If one can make the journey alone, this is taken as a sign that the pilgrim will find love. Those who need assistance in making the crossing will need help to find their mate.
At the shrines and temples many charms, incense, talismans and omikuji (paper fortunes) are sold by many vendors.Serious pilgrims come to pray, young people come looking for good fortune in love, visitors come to see the sights, and all fall under the spell of Kyoto's timeless temple.
My experience at the temple was breathtaking. First the walk up the street to the temple was very fun because it was full of food vendors, tourist shops, and was so crowded with people, but the view at the top of the street was worth fighting through the crowds.
I have to say that so far this temple is my favorite. It looks like a typical temple from the front, but once you get to the stage the view is breathtaking! Up on the mountainside with a fantastic view of the city below really brings peace and serenity to one's mind. I could have stood there on the balcony for hours taking in the wonderful view and the peaceful sounds of nature.
One of my favorite parts about the Kiyomizu temple is that it is surrounded in nature. There was a cement trail that people can walk around to experience the full view of the temple. This trail was mostly surrounded by trees, waterfalls, and small creeks. Also jizu can be seen on the trail. These are little stones that have been carved into a buddah-like shape and represent the god or spirit guardian of children who have passed away. Many of these stones can be seen with a red cloth or bib tied around the neck.
Also, I've figured out the main difference between a temple and a shrine! Temples have/have the potential to have a graveyard on the temple grounds, shrines do not have graveyards. The next trait is that temples provide gongs to help people gain the gods' attention when praying instead of clapping, which is done in shrines. The biggest difference to remember is that temples are associated with Buddha and shrines are associated with the Shinto religion.
If you ever want to escape the hustle and bustle of life for a few hours, the Kiyomizu temple should be at the top of the list. When you're there all negative thoughts (well, at least mine) disappear and leave you in a trance of blissful tranquility.