Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Kiyomizu-dera the Temple of Kiyomizu, Kyoto Japan

Kiyomizu-dera the Temple of Kiyomizu, Kyoto Japan

Kiyomizu Temple Rear view of Pagoda and adjacent building

Kiyoto’s Pride

The ancient Buddhist temple at Kiyomizu is located at the eastern part of Kyoto City in the Honshu Island Japan. This temple complex is a World Heritage Site approved by UNESCO since 1994. For a long time; this temple remains as a place for pilgrimage to the Japanese and the entire complex consists of several other shrines and pagodas; among them the most important being Jishu Jinja the shrine of the god of marital bliss and provider of good matches. The Kiyomizu dera remains as the most prominent sight in the city of Kyoto which was once the capital of Imperial Japan this city was also a stronghold of the Buddhist clergy during the 8th century.

The monk and his golden dream

Kiyomizu-dera the Temple of Kiyomizu, Kyoto Japan

Statuettes of Ksitigarbha (or Jizou) en masse (Kiyomizu Dera Temple)

This temple of Kiyomizu belonged to the Hosso-Sect of the Buddhist religion founded by a Chinese monk by name Doshi, This sect was a comparatively small one in number of followers but one of the oldest Buddhist sects in Japan. The Kiyomizu as per the legends was the creation of another monk by name Enchin, he did it with the help of a warrior by name Tamuramaro. Here is the legend.

200 years on a log!

One day Enchin the monk saw a dream about a golden stream flowing down from the hill to the Yadogawa River. Next morning itself he set to the hill on the pursuit of the golden stream. There on the hill he saw an old man sitting on a big log. To the enquiries of the monk the old man replied that he was sitting on that log for the last 200 years reciting hymns of God Kannan intending to make an image of that God out of that log. The old man then asked the monk to sit there until his return and went to the top of the hill.

Tamuromaro cometh

Kiyomizu-dera the Temple of Kiyomizu, Kyoto JapanStatuettes of Ksitigarbha covered by fern in Kiyomizu Dera temple

Not seeing the old man back the monk went in search and found only a pair of shoes on the peak of the hill. The monk was convinced that the old man was god Kannan himself and started to make the image of Kannan and a temple out of the log on which he sat. By that time a warrior (Tamuramaro) came there while hunting for a stag. Finding the monk and hearing what happened; the warrior donated his house to build the temple as per the wish of the monk, more over he spotted the golden stream to the monk had seen in his dream and helped in building the temple. Tamuromaro’s magnanimity was honored by the king and a palatial house granted to him in return.

The spring of wisdom, an answer to Japan’s technological superiority!

In Japanese ‘Kiyomizu’ means pure water which denotes the three springs situated in the complex just beneath the main hall. These three springs; known as ‘Otawa no taki’ is sourced from the nearby hills, which fall in to a pond; is collected by the devotees –in fact people from far away places visit this shrine to collect this water believed to have therapeutic effects. Of the three springs one for health the second for longevity and the third for success in education (wisdom). This belief and ritual is akin to the Indian ritual of collecting water from holy rivers and keeping it in places where holy images are placed. This water will be dropped in to the mouth of laid up people either for cure or at the time of death.

Jump in to your wish!

This Buddhist temple complex include many structures built in different time, its main hall is having a prominent veranda standing on hundreds of pillars standing magnificently tall from the hillside giving an impressive view. There is one belief among the Japanese that one who jumps from the 30 meter tall veranda and survives will be lucky and his wish will be realized. Up to recent times there were no dearth for these ‘sacred jumpers’; around 300 – 400 people used to jump for the fulfillment of their wish; of which about 15% alone died! The lush green woods grew underneath had done the trick as the tree branches cushioned the impact, yet 50% of the jumpers left with high spirits but fractured bones! Now this jumping is banned by the government. A phrase still exist in Japanese ‘go and jump from Kiyomizu’ equivalent to that in English ‘take a plunge”

Blind love; any takers?

The Jishu Jinja temple is dedicated to Okuninushino Mikoto the god of love and marital matches. There are two rocks placed in this complex at a distance of 18 meters, if one person touch on one of the stone and walks eyes closed to the other stone and succeeds in touching by him self; he will be fortunate enough to find a life-mate himself. Those who have to find others’ help for the job will require other one’s help in finding a partner!

Whatever be the truth it is funny to find devotees and tourists walking eyes closed and occasionally clashing one to the other, these collisions if between a man and a woman can result in to an eternal ‘collision-free’ union! At times middle aged husbands are found in hot pursuit of their ‘closed eyed’ wives; lest they may bump upon an able bodied man! How much bliss it would have provided to the loners if such a temple existed in New York or Chicago! It is a tragedy that Mikoto is only in Japan.


Kiyomizu-dera the Temple of Kiyomizu, Kyoto JapanOne of the lovestones in kiyomizu dera temple

This temple complex is extremely popular among tourists (to see the temple and strange rituals) and devotees (to collect holy water and pray). Summer and the O-bon festivals are season time and it is a mess here when tourists, devotees, students (who come here in search of gaining good grades by drinking water from Otawa no taki; there by saving efforts of hard work!), and touts selling ‘O-mikuji’ (talisman or folded paper with fortunes written in it) for easy access to fortunes etc. It is said that these touts have two types of O-mikuji those who pay well will get good fortune and those bargain for a lesser price will get O-mikuji that will bring bad lucks! Strange Japanese business technologies!

Kyoto and all its missed emissions!

The Kyoto City where this temple complex stands gained fame for hosting the ‘International Framework Convention on Climate Change’ first held in 11th December1997, then in 2005 and 2007 to pursue ‘action on green house gas emissions’; those events related to the convention still occupy top slots in media even during these times. The presence of such a wonderful Buddhist shrine (built in 798 AD and the surrounding monuments built after nine centuries (1633) was not adequately mentioned in most of the reportings related to the meeting of climate changes.

How to reach

Kiyomizu-dera the Temple of Kiyomizu, Kyoto JapanThe main gate of Kiyomizu Dera Temple

Kiyomizu is just 15 minutes from Kyoto by bus (bus number 100 or 206), alight at Kiyomizu-michi or Gojo-zaka; and another 20 minutes walk take you to the shrine, the path is clean clear and safe early morning is fine for the climb. There are numerous stalls that vend local delicacies and souvenir shops, to make a tour worth to remember. A walk between the stones of Jishi Jinja Temple with closed eyes alone may be enough to for a life long reward; if not convinced go to the Kiyomizu and feel it youself!

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