Kyoto, Japan: A Glimpse of the Japanese Buddhist Culture in Kiyomizu-dera
We first went to Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, Japan, a good hour away from our hotel in Osaka. Our bus stopped about a few minutes far from the place, giving us ample time to sightsee and walk. We followed our tour guide to the aforementioned temple, and we had to cross the uphill walk before arriving to our destination. It allowed us to easily get lost: people were walking left and right, stopping for photos, or heading towards the same direction.
The place was swarming with people, most of them students from various schools and tourists from all over the world. Since the street leading up to the temples were filled with souvenir stores that sold items exclusively made in Japan and marked by several trademarks of the country, people would drop by first before entering the temple itself. The street remained crowded and busy, which made going to the temple even more exciting.
The Kiyomizu Temple
The Kiyomizu Temple towers at several meters tall. One of the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto, this structure seems to be a historical site due to the fact that it’s pretty hard to find authentic structures in Kyoto, especially because of the wars in the 15th and 19th century. This temple also celebrates buddhism, but less restricted compared to other temples in Japan. They would visit the main hall (Hondo), and in there would they praise their buddha. They would remove their shoes, clasped their hands together, take off some money from their pockets, and offer a prayer silently. The buddha before them aimed to help countless people in their desires, no matter how far they were.
Across the shrine is a balcony, something that they aptly call the Kiyomizu stage, which boasts a marvelous view of the city and some greenery. Tae, our tour guide, told us that people would usually jump over the balcony, but the government prohibited the practice. In addition, not much died due to fall or even the impact – it was only about thirteen feet high, so people only suffered injuries. Today, people use the balcony as a stage for different events like celebrating dances, festivals, etc. Usually, people would gape at the sight of Kyoto, as it has become a viewing point as well.
The Otowa Waterfall
We continued to explore the temple more, which was a bit of a walk. Lots of tiny shrines and offerings were scattered in the temple, praising their god and emphasizing his power. In here, different actions depicted different kinds of desires. So in line with that, we decided to head towards the Otowa waterfall, which can actually be accessed through two ways: the long way and the short way. The short way was ridiculously steep and a bit dangerous; therefore, we opted for the long way, wherein we got to see some little constructions going on and the ways people paid respects to their buddha (the best one I saw was this man sketching the balcony place).
The Otowa waterfall is a symbolic gesture of praise, asking for either of the three things: longetivity, success, or love. The waterfall, divided into three streams, represents each kind. With long rods and steel cups attached to them, people would hold them out to the respective stream and drink through the cups. Then, they would place them back in the ultraviolet sterilizer, automatically cleaning them for the benefit and health of the next person who will use the rod. Our tour guide advised to drink in spite of what desires you have – those streams come from the same waterfall anyway.
After getting some more pictures, we strolled around the temple until it was time to go. The first stop was rather lovely even though I had a hard time appreciating it due to the numerous beliefs they have and how it was different to the way I gotten used to, or how they remained contrasting with my religious beliefs. But the temples were tall and magnificent – something other than high-rise buildings or gigantic amusement rides – and they belonged to a distinct culture, which broadened my perspective in these kinds of things. Overall, these temples, especially the views and the architecture, were breathtaking.
- Directions: Access guide includes from JR Kyoto Station, Kawaramachi Station on the Hankyu Line, and Gion Shijo Station, Shichijo Station, and Kiyomizu Gojo Station on the Keihan Line
- Website: http://www.kiyomizudera.or.jp/lang/01.html
- Admission Fee: 300 yen per person per adult
- Opening Hours: 6AM until 6PM, varies on special nights (opening of the seasons)