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World Heritage / Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto

Criteria: (ii) (iv) | Date of Inscription: 1994 | Location: Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures | Justification for Inscription


Things to see


Kiyomizu-dera is the most famous site in the city of Kyoto and the prime attraction for visitors to Kiyomizu-dera to look for is the temple's wooden terrace.

At the end of the 8th century, Enchin-shonin (later a saint) discovered the Otowa-no-Taki waterfall with the aid of a divine revelation from the goddess Kannon (Goddess of Mercy) as he slept. In 798AD, Seii-taishogun (the Barbarian Subduing Generalissimo) Sakanoue no Tauramaro, together with Enchin, built the Hon-do (Main Hall) to hold a golden colored Senjukannon (one thousand armed Kannon) as a token of his gratitude for the Kannon's divine protection during the conquest of the then barbarian Yezo area (modern day northern part of Japan).
Some time later the original name of the temple, Kannonji, was changed to Kiyomizu-dera meaning 'Pure Water Temple', in association with the Otowa Falls found at the site. Today, Kiyomizu-dera is the headquarters of the Kita-hosso-shu sect of Japanese Buddhism and the 16th of 33 Sacred Pilgrim Temples worshipping the Kannon. Over the years Kiyomizu-dera has suffered from repeated blazes and conflict and as a result most of the present building is a 17th century reconstruction of the original. The temple spreads over the hillside of Mt.Otowa and contains many large structures including a Niomon (deva gate), three story pagoda and Amida-do (temple to the Buddha).
Kiyomizu-no-butai (Wooden Terrace - a designated national treasure)
There is a famous saying for anyone considering a new venture in Japan: "Have you the courage to dive from the terrace of Kiyomizu?" The terrace, part of the main building of Kiyomizu Temple, is 15m in height and beyond the trees can be seen the fine views of Kyoto city, especially breathtaking at the time the cherry blossoms are coming into bloom or the autumn leaves are starting to change. Using a total of 172 giant pillars and not one nail this terrace is actually built into a steep hillside and during the Edo-era, those who made a vow to the deity often dove into the air from the terrace. A ban on such leaps was later imposed - in 1872.
The No.1 Spot in Kyoto
In the Edo-era Kiyomizu Temple was the single most visited place in Kyoto due to the strong belief in the Otowa Waterfall's ability to provide worldly happiness. In those days, tourists to Kyoto made a pilgrimage to Kiyomizu Temple first to obtain a bird's-eye view of the city from a guide before heading off to other famous places. The pagodas in the precinct were also the sites at which travelers and locals would pray for a safe and easy delivery during childbirth.
Otowa-no-Taki (Otowa Waterfall)
The name of "Kiyomizu" means "pure water," and is derived from the temples association with the Otowa Falls. The water emerges from Mt.Otowa and is listed as the first ranking of the ten clearest Japanese water sources.
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