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the pure water temple, or kiyomizu-dera (清水寺), was established in 798 on a mountain overlooking kyoto.  the discovery of the otawa-no-taki waterfall (音羽の滝) due to a divine revelation during a dream lead to the establishment of this temple.  this is kyoto’s most popular site.

the large terrace protruding from the main hall, kiyomizu-no-butai (清水の舞台), offers some of the best views of kyoto and is a national treasure.  the amazing part about this terrace is that it was built without a single nail.  that takes some serious skill.  there is an old saying that if you jump from the terrace and survive, then your with will be granted.  though long outlawed, several people had attempted the jump with some dying from the fall.  please do not try this yourself!  to get to kiyomizu-dera, you should board bus number 206 or 100.  when you exit the JR kyoto train station, you will see the lines of people waiting for a bus.  there are also signs in english pointing you to one of three bus stops.  just head for the one that says kiyomizu-dera.  if you are unsure, ask the employees standing around helping out tourists.  they speak sufficient english to help you out.  once on the bus, get off at stop go-jo zaka (五条坂) or kiyomizu michi (清水道), though i think the first stop will give you a better experience as you walk up the hill.  for either stop just head east up the hill towards the temple.  just follow the crowds.  its 300 yen to get in.  on the weekends you can also board bus number 18.

on your way up the hill, you will see many shops and shop owners trying to entice you to buy some souvenirs.  there’s everything from local food specialties to some beautiful handcrafted items.  you can see the pagoda from the distance.  if you can visit during the fall foliage you will be treated to a special light-up and trees of beautifully red, orange, and yellows.


the first structure that you will come upon is this main gate (photo taken from the rear).


some of the fine woodwork on the main gate.


there are two wooden carved guardian statues inside.  their eyes are striking and meant to scare you.  just past it, and to the right, you have the former entrance.


a view looking out to the city from the building above.


to the left of that gate is  the bell tower.  here’s a closer view of the bell and the nice wood work.  i really like all the colors.


though there are several 5 story pagodas in japan, this 3 story one is very nice indeed.


the left-most building in the photo above has a very nice experience.  for 100 yen you can go inside the building down some steps.  it is completely dark and you can’t see anything, but there is a rope to guide you.  once you reach the bottom you turn left and find a stone with a light shinning on it.  you are supposed to experience like you are going through the birth canal.  consider it your re-birth.  ;)

kiyomizu-dera can be very crowded during japanese holidays, so try to avoid visiting kyoto’s most popular destination during that time.  the line for getting an admission ticket (it moved fast, but you will have a better experience with fewer people).


right before you enter the main building and kiyomizu-no-butai you will see two metal rods and a line of people lifting, or attempting to lift them.  the heavier rod is quite heavy and i have not seen anyone lift it.  these are meant to demonstrate your strength and worthiness of protecting the temple.


a view of the hill side and the kiyomizu-no-butai.


a view down at the otawa-no-taki during winter.


there is a tradition that burning incense and fanning the smoke on yourself will remove bad spirits before you enter the temple.  go ahead and try it.  it smells great.


just past the main hall you will see these steps towards the left.


up the steps are a few shrines for love and good luck, including a shrine for the love god jishu.


you will also find two love stones.  if you can walk from one stone to the next with your eyes closed then your love will find you.  ^^


a view from this same area towards the pagoda.


further along, a view from a different terrace over at the kiyomizu-no-butai.


a view of the city with about 200 mm zoom.


say hi to the buddhas!  they look so cute with their little hats during the winter.  :)


walking a little further and then downhill you will pass a restaurant just before you reach the otawa-no-taki.  they serve a few different dishes including the local speicalty of kyoto, yudofu (湯豆腐).  it is boiled tofu with a little bit of soy sauce.  its very nice on a cool day.  get it with some udon noodles as well for a great combination!  mmm…


when you get to the otawa-no-taki you will have to wait in line.  you can use an existing cup to drink from (they are sanitized in UV light) or you can buy your own cup.


make sure to drink from two of the three waterfalls.


walking past the waterfall you will see many buddha stone statues.  with their little approns they look ready for some barbequeing.  ha ha


during the fall folliage light-up you will have some awesome photo opportunities.  next time i have to make sure to take my tripod.


a map of the surrounding area around kiyomizu-dera:

View Larger Map

my video so far.  i will get more video during this year’s light-up!

further information:

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  1. Hello,

    “say hi to the buddhas!”
    “with their little approns they look ready for some barbequeing. ha ha”

    By the way, for information, they are “Daigan Jizō Bosatsu” (japanese name), Jizō more commonly.
    And all this statue are dressed for all children ill, dead or who won’t come on earth.

    One for each child.