The Kiyomizu-dera, or Kiyomizu Temple, is one of Japan’s greatest treasures. The 14,000- square-foot temple, situated dramatically on a cliff overlooking Kyoto, was initially constructed in the 8th century. The temple was rebuilt during Japan’s Tokugawa dynasty in the 1600s, and has served ever since as a place of worship for Japanese Buddhists.
The temple is a major tourist attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but despite the crowds, there is something undeniably spiritual about its swooping pagodas and stone pillars, surrounded by swathes of natural greenery. Kiyomizu—which means “pure water” – takes its name from the waterfall in the center of the temple complex, whose water is believed to have the power to grant wishes.
Cherry and maple trees surround Kiyomizu-dera, and the natural beauty of its surroundings are part of what draws so many thousands to visit. In the spring, the temple is famed for its cherry blossoms, and in the fall, for the crimson leaves that nestle around it. In any season, Kiyomizu-dera is a place of reflection, a place that has been continually used for worship for 1,200 years. Below, take in these breathtaking views of the temple in all seasons—and imagine the prayers, pure as water, that have been offered here over many centuries.
A version of this post appeared on HuffPost Japan.