Kyoto, Japan and Kiyomizu-dera

The edge of the temple

Trip Taken: 2007

Many stories and blogs have written about the Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto, Japan and here is another story. My story of climbing the hill past throngs of tourists and shops to reach the temple that looks over the city of Kyoto.

The Johnnie Hillwalker tour ended a few hours past lunch, but I wasn’t really that hungry (I ate the extra inari sushi that the other tourists felt too ashamed to partake of). I don’t remember what Adam did, though I doubt he ate. Maybe we stopped by a 7-11 or a Lawson’s. I’m not sure. We headed up the hill and are instantly greeted by lots of shopkeepers shouting out what they are selling. They aren’t super-aggressive and target specific people but yell out to the general street. I thought that was one really cool aspect of Japanese culture. You would have employees saying what they sell to the general public and only when you approach them will they start to talk to you directly. Unlike say in Europe or the closer Asian neighbor, China.

One we get to the top, the temple is actually a complex of different shrines. According to my guidebook, the temple is associated to the Hosso school of Buddhism, which is the school of Buddhism practiced in Nara. Of course, you have the spectacular view and the cool little statues of the the buddhas. Three interesting of note about the temple are: the falling purity water, the lover’s stone, and the building held up by a lattice of wooden beams.


This is actually one of the star attractions here at the temple and there is a huge queue just to drink the falling water. I didn’t bother waiting in line as it looked like it would have taken over fifteen minutes. The water is said to have therapeutic properties. What kind of properties is unknown to me. The information plaque must been somewhere along the line.

Lover’s Stone

The lover’s stone is a set of two stones. It is said that if you are able to walk the 18 meters between the two stones with your eyes closed, then you love wish will come true. But if you fail, your love won’t be fulfilled. I saw many school girls attempting to do this. It’s funny watching them stumble and whine about where they are headed. Even in a foreign language, pouting is universal.

The Floating Shrine

The most photographed building in Kiyomizu is this one. It seems to float above the cluster of trees below. Plus, it has a killer view of the city of Kyoto. It was very crowded but the view was worth it. The shrine itself has some cool Buddha statues inside.


My guidebook refers to the steep climb up to the temple Chawan-zaka, or teapot lane. Adam bought some red bean pastries before going down. I was tempted to buy some souvenirs but I think I would have taken forever and my travel companion was not so patient. C’est la vie.

Parting Words

Kiyomizu does have a very secular air about it even though it is a religious destination. I would support some of the pastry shops and food stalls. Buy some charms and small keepsakes. But for really big purchases, I would save my money for the artisan quarters where there is more authenticity to your purchase.

Picture Gallery

Video: Up the Hill

Video: Red Bean Pastry Machine!

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About the Author

John is always trying to find his way back to the road. He has an affinity for Germany due to his three years studying German at Cal, and a year working as an intern in the Stuttgart area. He also likes chocolate cake and good cheese.