Kiyomizu-dera, known more fully as Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera is an independent Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto. The temple is part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) UNESCO World Heritage site. Kiyomizu-dera was founded in the early Heian period.
The temple dates back to 798, and its present buildings were constructed in 1633, during a restoration ordered by the Tokugawar Iemitsu. Not one nail is used in the whole temple. It takes its name from the waterfall within the complex, which runs off the nearby hills. Kiyomizu means clear water, or pure water. It was originally affiliated with the old and influential Hossō sect dating from Nara times. However, in 1965 it severed that affiliation, and its present custodians call themselves members of the “Kitahossō” sect.
You can usually spot a number of trishaw riders in this area as well as the occasional maiko dashing along the narrow alleys.
The Ninenzaka district, like Gion to the west, is an architecturally protected ‘preservation area,’ with many historic structures, such as the historic house of painter Yumeji Takehisa (1884 to 1934). The area is also known as “Nene-no-saka” after Kita-no-Mandokoro, the wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who walked this route to visit the Kodaiji Temple. The narrow winding streets of Nene-no-saka are predominantly for foot traffic, and the streets are lined with arts-and-crafts shops, cafes, and food concession stalls.
Along the narrow lanes of the Sannenzaka Slope, there are many shops that sell an indigenous ‘Kyo-yaki-style’ ceramic pottery from this area, called kiyomizu-yaki
The complex also offers various talismans, incense, and omikuji (paper fortunes). The site is particularly popular during festivals (especially at New Year’s and during obon in the summer) when additional booths fill the grounds selling traditional holiday foodstuffs and souvenirs to throngs of visitors.
In 2007, Kiyomizu-dera was one of 21 finalists for the New Seven Wonders of the World. However, it was not picked as one of the seven winning sites.
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