I doubt any trip to Kyoto would be without visiting a temple or two. With over 1600 temples dotted around the city you are bound to see at least one even if you weren’t planning to!
Many of the major temples are World Heritage Sites and of National and Cultural significance and they also feature some of the best gardens you are ever going to see any where.
Kiyomizu-dera (Pure Water Temple) is an ancient wooden temple that holds a commanding view over parts of Kyoto. Dating back to the Heian period the temple was founded around the 780s by one of the oldest Japanese schools of Buddhism the Hosso sect. Known predominantly for its wide verandah off the main hall constructed 13 metres above the hillside, it is a popular spot all year around but especially during Cherry blossom season and autumn where you can look out over all the Cherry and Maple trees below.
Of particular note is the fact that the giant pillars that hold up the temple were assembled without using a solitary nail and many parts of the temple have had to be rebuilt over the years due to earthquake and fire damage.
After you have visited the main building meander your way around the gardens to the Jishu Shrine. Legend has it that if you can find your way from one stone to the other with your eyes closed you will be lucky in finding love.
At the base of the temple gardens is Otowa waterfall where you can drink the waters from cups attached to long poles. The water is said to bring you longevity, success or love – asking for all three or drinking from all three streams that flow into the waterfall is said to be greedy!
Currently some of the buildings are undergoing restoration and may be covered by scaffolding so check the progress to find out when works are due for completion (it was scheduled to be mid 2013).
Admission to the temple is 300 yen and it is open from 6am-6pm daily – but check as times may change slightly due to the seasons.
After your visit to Kiyomizu-dera make sure you allow yourself enough time to explore the vibrant area surrounding the temple. Higashiyama District is an historical area packed full of tea houses, restaurants and shops selling specialties such as pottery, sweets, pickles and, of course, souvenirs.