A shot of Kiyomizu-dera is a truly iconic image of old Japan and the history of this temple lives up to that idea. Kiyomizu-dera was first founded in 778 and the present buildings that you will recognise were built in 1633 by Tokugawa Iemitsu. One surprising fact about the temple and the veranda is that it was completely constructed without the use of nails! Kiyomizu-dera is iconic in the autumn and winter when the veranda is surrounded by either red leaves or snow-topped trees but is equally beautiful at all times of the year.
The main hall (or Hondo) is a designated national treasure registered with UNESCO and is one of the monuments of ancient Kyoto. Housed within the main hall is a statue of the Eleven headed and Thousand armed Kannon Bodhisattva, who is known for answering prayers. The temple is usually open from 6 am until 5-6pm depending on the time of year, however, a couple of times each year you can visit at the night, with is breath-taking with the illuminations. The iconic main hall is not the only building on this site, there are many smaller temple buildings, a bell tower and a pagoda. The ascent to the temple is also an experience in itself. As a place of pilgrimage for hundreds of years, the streets are lined with shops and food sellers, where cute souvenirs can be purchased.
When you enter the shrine area you will notice a large red gate bordered by two lion dogs, this is the Deva gate (pictured above). Slightly to the right of the Deva gate is the West-gate, which can be viewed surrounded by well-tended shrubs and stone lanterns, although you cannot walk up to the gate itself. The main shrine area also holds a three storied pagoda, within are kept sutras for Buddhist worship.
The grounds within the temple are also beautiful to walk amongst, with small ponds fed by the nearby waterfall, and gorgeous Japanese architecture. The temple can be a very relaxing place to spend some time, even though it is so popular for both national and international tourists.
The view from the Main Halls veranda is truly stunning, you can see Kyoto down below which makes the ascent to the temple worthwhile for such a view. If looking straight out from the veranda you may notice another pagoda peeking out from between the trees. This is Koyasu Pagoda and can be accessed from the temple area by walking through the tended grounds. Visiting Koyasu Pagoda is said to allow a safe and easy childbirth.
Kiyomizu-dera is easily accessed while you are visiting Kyoto, however, be warned there is some walking involved in getting to the temple. The temple is easily accessed from Kyoto station, either by bus or by train. If you use the bus the walk to the temple will be half the time from taking the bus. I highly recommend visiting this temple if you are in Kyoto, it is not only iconic but allows you to really appreciate the architecture and nature that Japan offers.