Pilgrims have climbed Higashiyama's stone-inlaid streets to this historic mountainside temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for centuries. Kiyomizu-dera's tremendous gates and pagodas are marvels to behold. The main hall's huge veranda, jutting out over the forested valley, is one of the city's quintessential images. Immense timbers support the large deck and gracefully angular cypress-shingle roof. Finding the courage to set out on a daring new adventure is often likened to "taking a leap from the veranda of Kiyomizu."
The temple was founded in 780, but the buildings you see today date from 1633. Two huge temple guardians man the gateway, and the first sight is of people trying to lift the heavy iron staves and geta clogs, supposedly used by the warrior Benkei. The interior of the temple has been darkened by the ages. Visitors may pass along the area behind the main altar, a metaphoric journey into the soul; in the dark passageway below the temple, quietly follow a chain of thick
wooden beads to an ancient tablet carved with the Sanskrit rune for heart. Away from the main hall, the quirky Jishu Shrine is dedicated to Okuni Nushi-no-mikoto, a deity considered to be a powerful matchmaker. Many young people visit the shrine to seek help in finding their life partners. They try to walk between two stones placed 59 feet apart, with their eyes closed. It's said that love will materialize for anyone who can walk in a straight line between the two.
Farther down the path, the Sound of Feathers waterfall funnels down in three perfect streams before a raised platform. You can catch some of its water by using one of the long-handled silver cups; drinking from the falls supposedly helps with health, longevity, and academic success. If you need more to fortify you, enjoy some noodles, shaved iced, hot tea, or cold beer (depending on the season) from one of the old stalls below the trellised balcony.