Japan’s Finest Water

Its no secret. Japan is hot in the summer.  And the further south you go, the hotter it gets. The perpetual heat-wave transforms the plethora of vending machines into one of the country’s greatest conveniences. The brutal humidity also turns the Kiyomizu-dera Buddhist temple complex into a surprisingly appealing destination over the countless temples and shrines within Kyoto. But therein lies some of the charm of Kiyomizu; the complex is not located in downtown Kyoto, but rather, is nestled onto the side of nearby Otowa Mountain in Higashiyama-ku. The complex houses an assortment of structures, massive pillars, rich foliage, elegant walkways, active temples (many of which are simultaneously sad and quirky, eg. a shrine dedicated to the deity of love, Zuigudo Hall with its ‘in space, no one can hear you scream’ darkness designed to resemble a womb, and a so-called ‘aborted fetus’ shrine), and then one structure that provides a convenient excuse for this travelogue entry: Otowa Waterfall. At the bottom of a hill, water pours out from the top of a manmade structure, several feet away from the platform. After patiently waiting in line, you take a metal rod with a cup at the end that’s been sitting in an “Ultra Violet Sterilizer.” You then reach out and try to fill the cup with the sacred water from one of three ‘spouts.’  You will not succeed.  Gravity and velocity work against you.  Most of the water will spill out of the cup, possibly laughing at your feeble attempts as it pours into the bottom of the fountain.  But that doesn’t mean you won’t try. And you will try. Because remember, its hot as Venus in the Japanese summer, and the cold water pouring from the mountain stream is incredibly refreshing.  Odds are, you will try to refill your slightly irradiated cup.

Refer to the website for the complex’s seasonal hours: http://www.kiyomizudera.or.jp/index.html

Written by Jason Summerfield