Kiyomizudera: The Temple of Moving Water

Image from JR Railpass

The Kansai region of Japan is home to many of the country’s oldest temples. Kiyomizudera, translated as the Temple of Moving Water, is no exception.

Brief History

The temple itself was first founded in 780, although the current infrastructure dates to 1633.

According to lore, the Buddhist monk Enchin dreamed of a golden waterfall flowing down from Mt. Otowa to Kyoto. When Enchin man the journey to the spot in his dream, he met an old man, who was later revealed to be the bodhisattva Kannon.

Enchin dedicated himself to being able to carve a perfect likeness of Kannon. Many years later, the warrior Sakanoue no Tamuramaro (758–811) encountered Enchin and was enthralled by his dedication to Kannon. He became a patron of Enchin and had a temple built to Kannon.

For more than 1,000 pilgrims have flocked to this Buddhist site. It is said that a journey to Kiyomizudera will grant a person the ability to clearly see around them.

What to See

The main hall near the temple’s entrance boasts a tall statue of Kannon.

But the most spectacular site is the wooden terrace which affords a breathtaking panoramic view of Kyoto. In spring it is rife with cherry blossoms, although my favorite time is fall when all of the trees are bright orange and provide a beautiful array of colors to behold.

Taking the Water

Today, a stream of water flows through the temple’s lower complex into a pond and allows visitors to drink the water. There are metal cups, which are disinfected by UV lights, which available to visitors to dip into the water.

Having personally tasted the water, I can say that it did not garner the best flavor, but it is more about the experience of walking up the mountain and experiencing the beautiful nature around the temple. If you decide to drink from the stream, pick one, not all three.

The Jishu Shrine

Before departing the temple, stop by the Jishu shrine. If you close your eyes when passing the temple, ledged holds that there is a high probability you might meet your soulmate.

Getting There

Image from JR Railpass

When I traveled to Kyoto from Tokyo, I found that taking the bus 100 or 206 Bus at Kyoto Ekimae Bus Stop. It is about a ten minute ride. You will get off at the Goyo zaka stop. In total is costs about 250 yen. You will have to walk ten minutes through the Hisgashiyama shopping area to reach the temple’s entrance. The hill is steep so it is highly recommended to wear comfortable shoes.


The temple is open from 6 am to 6 pm.


The entrance fee as of early 2022 was 400 yen.