Kyoto’s most famous temple was first founded in 798 and rebuilt in 1633 by the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu. It spreads over wooded slopes and ravines on Mount Otowa, providing grand vistas toward the city from the verandah of its main hall. Although the main hall is dedicated to Kannon, the goddess of mercy and compassion, Kiyomizu is most famous for its views and its height, so famous that there’s a Japanese idiom about jumping from the verandah of Kiyomizu, which is the equivalent of taking the plunge or embarking on a bold or daring venture.
The main hall, with its verandah constructed over a cliff, was built using a traditional Japanese method of construction, without the use of nails. To see it in all its glory, take the stone steps down toward Otowa Falls, where you can see the 18 pillars that support the verandah, all made from zelkova trees more than 400 years old and the largest of which is more than 12 meters (39 ft) high and 2m (6 ft) in circumference. More amazing still, it is all considered earthquake-resistant, and despite fires and other disasters that have plagued many Japanese treasures, this one has withstood the test of time. It became part of Kyoto’s World Heritage list in 1944.
In addition to walking to the three-story pagoda for another view of the temple (made even more glorious during cherry-blossom and autumn-foliage seasons), you might want to drink the refreshing spring water from Otowa Falls, said to bring health and grant wishes. I also like stopping at Taki-no-ya, a small, open-air pavilion snack bar, for noodles and beer, which I consider also good for my health.
But those looking for love shouldn’t slight Jishu Shrine, the dwelling place of love and matchmaking, where you can purchase good-luck charms and undergo the real test for a successful love life–navigating the distance between two stones placed about 9m (30 ft) apart, with your eyes closed (you didn’t think this would be easy, did you?). If you fail, don’t despair. There’s also a bucket of water, where you can write down your woes on a piece of paper and then submerge it, supposedly washing your troubles away.
Bus: 100, 202, 206 or 207 to Gojozaka or Kiyomizu-michi stop.