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Kiyomizu Temple

10 Apr, 2009

A Spiritual Journey in Kiyomizu Temple

Kiyomizu Temple

It could be said that Japan has the best of both worlds. On one hand, it offers some of the most technologically advanced attractions and destinations. Japan’s shopping districts—Akihabara, for instance—feature some of the most state of the art gadgets and merchandises. Tokyo itself is considered one of the most forward cities in the world, comparable to America’s New York, France’s Paris, or Britain’s London. On the other hand, Japan is also home to some of the world’s some magnificent natural wonders and spiritual locations. And one of the most visited religious sites in Japan is the temples. These Japanese Buddhist temples can be found in practically every municipality in Japan, mainly because Buddhism is one of the major religions in the country. Most of the important festivals and occasions in the country are held in temples, where one could see the natives don their best kimonos (or formal wear) or yukata (or summer wear).

One of the most celebrates temples in Japan is the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. Literally translated as the Pure Water Temple, the Kiyomizu-dera is among the oldest temples in the country and one of the oldest associated to Hosso Buddhism, one of the sections of Japanese Buddhism (although the temple deflected from this sect in 1965). In 1995, the Kiyomizu Temple was included in the UNESCO World Heritage sites list, a sign that even foreign organizations see the relevance and significance of the temple to Japan.

The temple was built in 780 although the buildings that are present until today were built in 1633. The name of the temple (Kiyomizu) means pure water, after the waterfall within the temple compound. The main hall of the Kiyomizu Temple has a veranda that is supported by tall pillars. This veranda is well known for two reasons—the spectacular view of Kyoto it offers, and the tradition it used to uphold. According to a tradition during the Edo period, people who jump from the veranda and survive will their wishes granted. Although more than 80 percent of the 234 recorded jumps survived, this practice was prohibited.

Behind this famed main hall lies the waterfall—named the Otawa, The water from the Otawa is said to have therapeutic properties, a claim to uncommon in religious places. The waterfall has three streams, and each stream represents longevity, health, and wisdom—and drinking the water from the particular streams would confer these characteristics to the person (although one can only drink two).

But the Kiyomizu Temple is perhaps famous for the Jishu Shrine inside the temple complex. This shrine is dedicated to the god of love Okininushi. Visitors should walk inside the portion of this shrine with their eyes closed, holding a love stone. If the visitor reaches the other love stone after a 18 meter walk, he or she will find love.

The district outside the temple is also worth looking at, as it offers a perfect illustration of typical Japanese life outside the busy streets of Tokyo and other more developed cities. The Higashiyama district, where the Kiyomizu Temple is located, is picturesque and atmospheric, a lively background to the serene offerings the temple holds.

Kiyomizu Temple

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