Kiyomizu-dera

The great water temple in Kyoto

Kiyomizu-dera is a syncretic place of worship associating a Buddhist temple and a shinto shrine, located in Higashiyama district in the east of Kyoto. Very popular in spring and in autumn, it is one of the most appreciated visits of the city, especially thanks to its main hall built on the mountainside and integrated in UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994.

The gigantic Buddhist structure was built in 780 and rebuilt in 1633 after destruction by a fire. It is renowned for its majestic main hall: Kiyomizu-dera Hondo, whose platform protrudes thirteen meters above ground (see front picture). Kizomizu-dera also features a nice walk, beginning at Kiyomizu-michi, through famous shopping streets Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka Slopes.

A majestic red wooden gate stands at the entrance of Kiyomizu-dera’s precincts. The religious complex consists of several temples, pagodas, and even a waterfall (Otoma), all gathered around the main hall. A Shinto shrine, Jishu-jinja, is dedicated to love and matchmaking.

This marvelous gathering of temples, among which the beautiful main hall, and the walk offer a very pleasant and soothing panorama.

The momiji (maple trees) light-up in Kiyomizu-dera

Kiyomizu-dera is one of Kyoto’s must-sees. Twice a year, the temple organizes a special event: for sakura (cherry blossoms) during spring and for momiji (red maple trees) during fall.

We had the opportunity to travel in Kyoto in autumn, during the reddening period of the maple trees and planned a visit at night. From mid-November to early December, Kiyomizu-dera, as many other temples in the city, holds a special opening and perform a "light-up": the entire walking trail is immersed in the dark while spotlights are cleverly arranged to light up a few strategic spots (mainly on the temples and trees).

Important notice: These special events are obviously very popular among Japanese people and tourists who come in flocks and wait patiently for hours to see momiji. Fortunately, Kiyomizu-dera is one of the largest temples in Kyoto. But with 5,5 million visitors each year, the challenge of a quiet visit and pictures without strangers is high. Even more when the use of a tripod, essential to shoot in such a dark environment, is not tolerated by the temple’s staff.

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Kiyomizu-dera photo gallery

  • Kiyomizu-dera, Main Hall in February 2020
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Main Hall in February 2020 2
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up
  • Kiyomizu-dera, View on the main hall before renovation works
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Nio-Mon Gate
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Details of the roofs
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Chozuya purification basin
  • Kiyomizu-dera, View on the Main Hall's platform
  • Kiyomizu-dera, View on the Main Hall's platform at sunset
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Ema plates
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Pavilions
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Entrance to Jishu-jinja
  • Kiyomizu-dera, The temple's precincts
  • Kiyomizu-dera, View on the main hall before renovation works 2
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up, Nio-mon Gate
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up 2
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up 3
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Main Hall at night during Momiji light-up
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up 4
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up 5
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up with a view on Kyoto
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up on the Main Hall's platform
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up on the Main Hall's platform 2
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up 6
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up 7
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Stairway at night during Momiji light-up
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up 8
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up 9
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up on the Main Hall's platform 3
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up with a view on Kyoto 2
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up on the slopes
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up on the slopes 2
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up on the slopes 3
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up on Otowa Waterfall
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up 10
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up 11
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up 12
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up 13
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up 14
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Momiji light-up and pagoda
  • Kiyomizu-dera, Shopping street

Information

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How to get to Kiyomizu-dera

From Kyoto Station:

  • By bus, #100 or #206 line (15 minutes - ¥230 / ~US$ 2.10) and then a 10-minute walk through Kiyomizu-michi
  • On foot, about a 35-minute walk (3,4km)

Location unreachable with the JR Pass

Get there with a rental car

Admission

¥400 (~US$ 3.70) during the day

A surcharge may apply for light-up events

Get your Japanese Yens free of charge

Opening hours

Open daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Sakura and momiji nocturnal light-ups (early spring and late autumn) from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (exact dates provided every year on the official website)

Other nocturnals events from August 14th to 16th and on December 31st

How long / when to visit

One to two hours on site

Ideal in spring and autumn, during the flowering

Very crowded at the opening of the light-up and / or during weekends

In Japanese

清水寺 (Kiyomizudera)

Other name(s)

Kiyo-Mizu Temple

Temple of pure water

Construction work

Since 2008, 9 out of 16 UNESCO designated buildings have undergone renovation works (for a total amount of ¥4 billion / ~US$ 36,898,496.80). The main hall (front picture) was covered with construction sheets from February 2017 to February 2020.

Replacement of the platform floorboards in the main hall will start in summer 2020. The building will stay open to the visit during the works.

Weather in Kyoto

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10 / 19°C
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5 / 11°C

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Official website (in English)

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Day trips from Kiyomizu-dera (Higashiyama)