I had a slight mishap on the second day of our honeymoon/adventure in Kyoto. We were thinking of going around Tokyo by bicycle. The problem is, I only learned how to ride one recently. I was a nervous wreck, and after 10 minutes of trying to recall how to maintain my balance (and failing miserably), we cancelled our bike rentals and went on by bus instead. I guess it was not wise of me to insist on trying even though knowing that I was not comfortable enough.
Anyways, the morning’s mishap fortunately didn’t hamper our excitement one bit. Our trip to Fushimi Inari shrine on our first day in Kyoto has emboldened us to find more interesting places in Kyoto and maintained our excitement level very high for the entire duration of our stay (read: we were acting like chipmunks on caffeine most of the time). After a very short bus ride we arrived near an alleyway that led us to the entrance of one of Kyoto’s famous temple: Kiyomizudera.
Common among many tourist attractions anywhere in the world, we saw a lot of souvenir shops along the sides of the alleyway leading up to the front gate of the temple complex. This area was actually quite lively and we actually spent quite some time window-shopping as there were a lot of interesting things like snacks, little trinkets, etc. Before wasting too much of the morning hours we reminded ourselves that our main destination for the morning was the temple and moved along. But of course we’d be revisiting the area again after we finished our temple sight-seeing. After all, shopping IS part of traveling, right? 🙂
As soon as we entered the complex we arrived at a large wooden stage that jutted right out of its main hall. This particular place was quite the tourist flocking area. A lot of the visitors could be found here. Some were busy taking photos, and a lot of them were found sitting down on the steps between the main hall and the wooden stage. The massive stage seemed to be one of the temple’s main attraction. According to Wikipedia, it was a common practice during the Edo period to jump off from the stage 13 meters down to the ground under it. Apparently there was a saying that if a person survives the jump, he/she would have his/her wish granted. Well, I say that if their wishes were cracked skulls and broken bones I’m sure they got what they wanted. Such practice is, of course, prohibited nowadays.
Looking around at the foliage surrounding the temple the cook and I can only imagine how beautiful it would be during autumn, where the leaves would turn brown-red. If only we planned our honeymoon at least two weeks later… The place would probably look very beautiful as well during the spring cherry blossom season. A good excuse to visit the city again next time. Preferably with better timing.
There was another main attraction of the temple complex right under where the wooden stage was located. It was a small waterfall which runs off from a nearby hill. This waterfall is from which the name of the temple was derived from (Kiyomizu = pure water). The waterfall itself is named ‘Otowa’. A lot of people lined up to drink the fall’s water (chanelled through 3 bamboo pipes). Legend said that drinking the water would grant the drinker his or her wishes. This is definitely safer than jumping off 13 meters down from a wooden stage. I sure am seeing a pattern here. Also, a lot of the people lining up for a drink were teenagers. Go figure.
There were also smaller temple/shrine buildings surrounding the Kiyomizudera. One of them is called Jishu Shrine. A pair of so-called ‘love stones’ can be found within this shrine. The stones were placed about 6 meters apart. A lone visitor may try to walk from one stone to another with his or her eyes closed. If he or she could reach the other stone with eyes closed, it is said that they will find love, or true love. Try guessing from which age demographic most of the shrine’s visitors were that day.
In case you’re wondering, the temple also sells a lot of trinkets, souvenirs, and other wish-granting objects.
Exploring the whole temple complex did not take us long. Soon enough we found ourselves traversing the alley from where we came earlier (the alley’s called Matsubara-Dori). We discovered that the area leading to Kiyomizudera has a lot of other interconnected alleyways and lanes and it was famously known as the Higashiyama district. The district lies on the lower slope of Kyoto’s eastern mountains. We could see that it has some historic significance as almost all of the shops and buildings lining the alleyways were of traditional Japanese designs and were also decorated in a traditional manners. We also found many smaller shrines and temples in the district. This place sure invoked a certain nostalgic feel to it, and it’s highly recommended to visit this area if you happen to be traveling to Kyoto. Anyways, if you’re traveling to Kyoto then you know you’re looking for these things as Kyoto is a city well-known for its combination of the old and new Japan.
For more information on Kiyomizudera (and various interesting places all over Japan), go to Japan Guide’s website. They have tons of very useful information there. This is one of my go-to site when the wife and I were researching our trip to Kyoto.
Enjoy the photo gallery. Hope it will inspire you to visit Kyoto 🙂