I want this Blog to document my move to Japan, a “fish out of water” experience. But it’s not as if I’ve never visited. It is the beautiful experiences with the country, people and culture which strengthen the siren call to make the big leap. Being married to a Japanese citizen means that I’ve had the fortune of a few trips, usually focused around family, food, travel and fun.
One such trip was my Honeymoon, in 2010. On this trip we stayed with family in the countryside, but also made it a point to visit a few other cities including; TOKYO, KYOTO, and IZU.
Today my mind wanders to a fond memory from Kyoto. With literally hundreds of temples and shrines in Kyoto, I only had the time to pick a couple to visit. One was Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺).
I remember clearly how it was not only the hottest day of the year, but also the hottest day on record for decades. We didn’t let it deter us and it made for a vivid memory. I’ve heard that extreme cold/heat can make for stronger memories. Maybe there’s some truth to that. As always, the streets and people in route to the destination always grab my attention.
A few facts about Kiyomizu-dera:
- Founded in 780
- Like most ancient structures it has been built, and rebuilt with current buildings from around 1633
- Not a single nail in the entire structure, notched wood
- It’s named after a waterfall that runs through it
- The Main Hall hangs off the side of a cliff, overlooking maple trees and the cit of Kyoto
- An old tradition states that if you jump off (49′), and live, your wish is granted (jumping not allowed)
- In 2007 it was a finalist for the New Seven Wonders of the World
- It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
I guess it’s typical of my curiosity to focus on the oldest structures first. And with this temple being founded around 780, perhaps as early as 657, I can’t help but be fascinated by it.
The reality is that no man made structure lasts forever, and the temples and castles of Japan have often been partially or even completely rebuilt at times due to fire or various battles. This one is no exception with many of the buildings having been rebuilt in the 1600’s. One amazing feat is how faithful they are to reproducing the original structures.
Not a single nail is used in the construction of the 13meter high main hall which sits on the edge of a mountain. 139 pillars, each 49 feet high. What a testament to the mastery of the creators. It is said if you jump off and survive – your wish will be granted. While the practice has obviously gone out of fashion (banned), 234 jumps were recorded in the Edo period and 200 survived. I’d love to know what their wishes were.
As you can probably guess, I recommend checking out this temple regardless of the fact that it is a popular destination. It is large enough, with enough history and interesting things to explore that you are sure to have your own unique experience.