Let’s be real: Kyoto can really be overwhelming with the number of shrines and historic places nestled within its boundaries. There are just so many to see that in order to draw in pilgrims, visitors, and those lucrative tourist moneys, each shrine or temple needs to have something to draw people in. It isn’t necessarily a gimmick, but something unique about the spot that sets it apart. For Kiyomizudera, it’s cool delicious water.
The temple grounds are nice to walk around in. There are some nicely pedicured areas, pagodas, and if you visit in the summer, the gentle tinkling of the glass and brass wind chimes hanging around the temple grounds. The only downside to getting here is actually getting here. The temple is up a very steep, very long hill. After huffing and puffing up a steep road, replete with narrow stairways and a large graveyard, we finally made it to the start of the temple. To actually enter the temple, you need to climb a little more to enter. Photography inside is prohibited, so I will have to use my words to lead you through.
First, you take off your shoes and place them into a plastic bag. From there, you pass into a dimly lit area full of candles, giving a low, stale heat off in the room. There is a large central area you walk the perimeter of, decorated inside with many gods and demons of carved wood in powerful positions. You can’t tell if paint is faded or nonexistent because putting flames too close to the statues seems like a terrible idea. Once you finish your pass, you are ushered out onto the back balcony, which overlooks the wooded mountains and valleys. This is the famous view the main temple is known for. During our visit, the temple was under renovations, so large bamboo scaffold shrouded in canvas and tarp blocked the exterior, making it a little less impressive than its original form.
We walked out the back and down some stairs to the main draw of the temple: The three waterfalls. Well, it’s technically one waterfall that they have forked into three that you can take a drink from. And here is where you make a decision: Each fall is supposed to grant you a special blessing. One grants wisdom, one health, and one for love. The main website says the falls grant wishes, but do not mention the specific blessings of each fall. It is noted, however, that you shouldn’t drink from all three, as that is seen as greedy, and all fortunes will be forfeit if you overindulge.
It’s a nice little spot with a very impressive taste of Ototwa Falls river water. During the spring and autumn, you can see the surrounding areas explode in vibrant pink, red, orange, and yellow. It’s a nice stop either way and worth a quick hour or two of your time if you’re in the area.