While I was planning the trip, I was most excited to visit Kyoto. After reading Memoirs of a Geisha when I was 16 or 17, I fell in love with the author's description of Kyoto. When I watched the movie adaptation of the book, I was entranced by the quaint city. I wanted to visit every shrine, temple, palaces, pavilions and absorb all the heritage and culture!
Our first stop in Kyoto was Kiyomizu-dera Temple, a Buddhist temple that was listed as one of UNESCO's World Heritage Site. But before we make our way to probably one of the most famous iconic sights of Kyoto, we had to get a make over.
Yes, we walked around Kiyomizu-dera temple site in our rental kimonos. It was a rather harrowing experience for Steve at the kimono rental shop because him (and four or five other strangers) were told to strip down to their undies and dressed by an elderly lady. It was a similar experience for me, though I got to pick my own hairstyle etc. Steve was quite defensive initially about wearing a kimono, but later on agreed that it was a smart move to wear the loose robes in 25C heat.
A few minutes' walk uphill surrounded by quaint little shops selling teaware, snacks and various other knick knacks, we were greeted by vermillion coloured gates and shrines. Although I have seen similar shrines in Tokyo, the bright colours still tickled my fancy.
The view was simply spectacular. I was fascinated at the contrast of the vermillion gate against the drab monotonous commercial and residential buildings in the distance.
After a few minutes of walking, we were in front of a large brown structure that looks like a theatre stage. We finally reached the main hall. The temple's main hall is still a place of worship and many worshippers were there praying for good luck or for their wishes to be granted.
There were many look out points and walkways that offer spectacular view of the temple surrounding. We were there in early Autumn when the leaves started turning into beautiful hues of red and orange. It was magical and the leaves glimmered under the golden late afternoon sunshine.
Don't forget to look back as you make your way around the temple surroundings, because we did and simply blown away at the magnificence of the main hall's structure. Can you believe not a single nail was used to construct it? Wow!
Beneath the main hall, you'll see the Otawa waterfall with three streams of water that falls into a pond. Each stream represents longevity, luck in love and success in school. Visitors can drink from each stream as it is said that you'll be blessed with benefits from each stream. I drank from one of the streams and as you can see, it was packed with other tourists looking to get some good luck and fortune.
Despite the throng of tourists that swarmed the temple when we visited, we still had a great time. Kiyomizu-dera temple is synonymous to Kyoto and I'd say if you only have one day in Kyoto, do make it part of your itinerary. It's only a 15-minute bus ride away from Kyoto JR Station, or about 30 minute walk from Kyoto JR Station.
Get There and Around
Kiyomizu-dera can be reached from Kyoto Station by bus number 100 or 206 (15 minutes, 230 yen). Get off at Gojo-zaka or Kiyomizu-michi bus stop, from where it is a ten minute uphill walk to the temple. Alternatively, Kiyomizudera is about a 20 minute walk from Kiyomizu-Gojo Station along the Keihan Railway Line.