Kiyomizu-dera Photography Guide
Kiyomizu-dera is a beautiful temple in the city of Kyoto in Japan. It is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and one of the most famous and popular sights in Japan. The temple was built in 780 and is an important part of Japanese culture and history. The temple stands on a hill and offers a breathtaking view of the city of Kyoto. The name Kiyomizu-dera translates to “Temple of Pure Water” and refers to the spring that rises in the temple and flows through it. Visitors can drink the clear water from the well as it is said to have healing properties.
Photographers will find many photogenic subjects when visiting the Kiyomizu-dera. The temple itself is a beautiful photo motif with its traditional architecture and ornate wooden columns. The view of the city of Kyoto from the hill is also impressive and can be wonderfully captured in photos.
A special highlight is the 13-meter high balcony, which is located on the west side of the temple. From here, visitors have a stunning view of the city and the Kamo River. The balcony offers a popular photo motif, especially during sunsets. However, a crowd of people can be expected here in the evening.
Especially the surrounding gardens and small shrines are well worth seeing. Above all, on the way to the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, you should not miss the Hokan-ji Pagoda and the historic street Sannenzaka. Sannenzaka is known for its many traditional stores and restaurants housed in the street’s old buildings. Visitors can experience Japanese culture firsthand here and buy authentic Japanese gifts and food. Other fascinating photo opportunities can be found here, such as the artistically designed rock gardens and the countless trees and flowers.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Kiyomizu-dera Temple as a photographer is in the late afternoon when the sun is low. Once the sun is low on the opposite side of Kyoto, Kiyomizu-dera Temple and the surrounding trees glow with golden colors.
The cherry blossom season in spring and the autumn foliage season in fall are perfect times to visit Kiyomizu-dera. The beautiful flowers and changing foliage provide colorful and interesting backgrounds for your photos. However, these times are also very popular and it could get very crowded, so be prepared for a lot of people.
Kiyomizu-dera hosts a number of exceptional festivals and events throughout the year. These events can be a great opportunity to experience the temple in an unique way, but they also draw more visitors.
How to get to Kiyomizu-dera
The bus is probably the fastest and cheapest way to get from the central station to Kiyomizu-dera Temple. The two bus lines 100 or 206 operate from the bus station at central station directly to Kiyomizu-dera Temple.
From the station concourse, take the “Central Exit” and then follow the “Bus Terminal” sign. Once there, you can check the ticket counter for exact departure times and fares. The bus ride takes about 30 minutes and costs about 230 yen per person.
Get off at the “Kiyomizu-michi” stop and walk from there towards the temple for about 10 minutes.
Alternatively, you can take a cab that will take you directly to the temple. The ride takes about 10-15 minutes and costs about 1000-1500 yen depending on traffic and cab fare.
Best photography spots at Kiyomizu-dera
The Kiyomizu-dera temple offers so many great photo opportunities that you want to spend the whole evening here. The famous photo spots with the view of the temple and the pagoda are on the opposite side of the hill. On the balcony of Okuno-in Hall you have the perfect view of the temple. But don’t stop there and walk 2 minutes further south to the beautiful photo spot on the Three Story Pagoda. Find a list of the photo spots you must see below.
- Exact location: 34°59’40.6″N 135°47’07.7″E
- Very crowded location on a wooden balcony.
- Nearly impossible to use tripod here.
- Share this place with other visitors.
- Exact location: 34°59’39.3″N 135°47’07.8″E
- Less crowded than the balcony.
- Tripod possible, nevertheless sometimes difficult.
- Share this place with other visitors.
- Use the trees for a nice framing.
- Exact location: 34°59’42.4″N 135°47’01.3″E
- Less crowded, because everyone rushes directly to the temple.
- Tripod possible.
- Exact location: 34°59’41.2″N 135°47’03.7″E
- Crowded area, because it is located at the entrance of the temple.
- Tripod not possible.
- Catch the leading lines towards the pagoda
Photography spots near-by you don’t want to miss
There is a lot to explore in the surroundings of Kiyomizu-dera. Here is a short list of photography locations which you shouldn’t miss.
- Exact location: 34°59’49.4″N 135°46’51.7″E
- Explore the complete street from Hokan-ji to Kiyomizu-dera.
- Very crowded area all day long, but great for street photography.
- A lot of people in Kimono.
- Exact location: 34°59’53.1″N 135°46’48.8″E
- Very crowded during day and afternoon.
- Early morning is best to get a shot without crowds.
- Tripod difficult (depends on rush hour times).
Best places to eat near Kiyomizu-dera
Otowa Saryo is one of the best restaurants close to Kiyomizu-dera. It’s a lovely café that’s minutes away from the temple. The café has a spectacular outdoor balcony with views of the city and serves a variety of traditional Japanese dishes as well as sweets and desserts. It’s the ideal spot to rest your legs.
Bunnosuke Chaya Honten, a traditional Japanese teahouse close to the Kiyomizu-dera temple, is yet another excellent choice. Matcha, hojicha, sencha, as well as sweets like dango and mochi, are among the Japanese teas and snacks that are available at the teahouse. The teahouse is a wonderful location to take part in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony because of its warm, genuine atmosphere.
Other options near Kiyomizu-dera include Okabeya, a restaurant specializing in yudofu, a traditional Kyoto dish made with tofu cooked in hot water; and HANA-Kitcho, a high-end restaurant offering traditional Kyoto cuisine.
Opening Hours: 06:00 – 18:00 / 18:30
Entrance Fee: 400 ¥
Best time: Sunset at Cherry Blossom / Autumn
Photography Equipment: No drones allowed | Tripod difficult, but allowed | Wide- and Telelens recommended