So, you have decided to go to Kiyomizu Temple. Everyone keeps talking about how charming Kyoto is, but so far you just haven’t seen it. You got off of the shinkansen at the train station and the city looks like every other city in Japan-hopelessly modern. You take the subway to Higashiyama station and walk south on Higashoji Dori and still, all you see are concrete buildings and bustling traffic. You turn east on Matubari Dori and something happens. As you get closer to the temple, the neighborhood becomes less gritty and positively charming. The street narrows and the buildings become wooden. Pedestrians that were absent just a few blocks back have swarmed the streets. Where did they all come from? The street leading to the temple is lined with shops selling gifts and food. There are restaurants you can sit at and those selling food to go. If you have never tried green tea ice cream, now is your chance. If you love green tea ice cream, be sure to grab a cone here. Also, get the croquettes (two should do), and try to let them cool before you stuff them into your mouth.
Kiyomizu Temple was founded 798 and rebuilt 1633, and today, it is one of the most popular attractions in Kyoto-and for good reason. This is temple is built into the side of a mountain and there is a large wooden veranda overlooking the city and stream below (Kiyomizo means “pure water”). The views are amazing, and adults, children, locals and visitors come here to take in the panorama of Kyoto and the mountains that surround the city. The temple can be crowded, but that actually makes it more enjoyable. The Japanese are very polite and there are facilities everywhere. This is a popular destination for school groups. Though the children are less reserved than the adults, they are no less polite.
Located just to the right of the temple on the grounds is a wonderful little open-air cafe called Taki-no-ya. Grab a beer, soda or tea and some food while sitting on mats in the shade. The menu is in English and of course, the staff are incredibly polite. It has the feeling of a much quieter locale and is not what you would expect for a restaurant near a major attraction.
Behind the Temple is the Jishu Shrine. This Shinto shrine is dedicated to love and matchmaking. It is free to enter, but at least buy a good luck charm while you are here. All you need is love, but it never hurts to hedge your bets. Located in the middle of the shrine are two stones about 30 feet apart. Legend has it if you can walk between them with your eyes closed, your wishes for true love will come true.
Kiyomizu Temple is open from 6am to 6pm (6:30pm in the summer) and admission is 300 yen. If you want to avoid the crowds, go early and enjoy the peace and quiet and satisfaction that only getting up two hours before everyone else can give you.
This is Kyoto at its finest and is worth your time.