Kiyomizu Temple (Kiyomizu-dera) is one of Japan’s oldest and most eye-catching Buddhist temples. Its classic red pagoda has been influential to Japanese architecture for centuries. Located on a hilltop, Kiyomizu Temple is also worth visiting for its sweeping views over Kyoto.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kiyomizu Temple should not be missed when visiting Kyoto. Although originally built in 798, most of the current buildings date from the 17th and 18th centuries because of repeated fires throughout the years. Lovely gardens and shrines surround Kiyomizu Temple, and the stage just off the Main Hall is famous for its city views.
Kiyomizu Temple is a must-see attraction in Kyoto, so most organized tours include it on their itineraries. It’s also easily accessed via public transport. The complex offers tours of the temple and grounds conducted by a Buddhist priest.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Although the temple is part way up Mount Otowa, it is fully wheelchair accessible, with no-step paths and special vehicle access via the emergency road entrance to save climbing the steps.
- The temple grounds are large, with 30 buildings and gardens to stroll through. While it’s possible to visit quickly, if you’re trying to see many highlights of Kyoto in a short time, it’s also worth spending a couple of hours here.
- There is a small admission charge.
How to Get There
Kiyomizu Temple is best reached by bus. From Kyoto Station, catch City Bus no. 206 or 100 (on Saturdays and holidays, take the Kyoto Bus no. 18) and get off at Gojozaka and walk east. Buses are also available from Hankyu Kawaramachi, Keihan Gion-Shijo, and Keihan Shichijo stations. There are no parking lots at the temple, and nearby lots tend to get crowded quickly due to the temple’s popularity.
When to Get There
The temple is open every day from 6am until 6pm or 6:30pm, depending on the season. Special night-viewing sessions are also organized in each season, when the temple remains open until 9pm. Every season at Kiyomizu Temple offers a different experience: the temple is surrounded by snow in winter, blossoms in spring, greenery in summer, and fiery leaves in fall.
Stage on a Cliff
The Main Hall of Kiyomizu Temple is built upon a steep cliff, and the stage that hangs out in front offers amazing views of Kyoto. While this may seem like a precarious perch, especially in an earthquake-prone country, the platform has survived since 1633. The traditional construction method consists of 18 wooden pillars and uses no nails.