Apple's adventures in Kiyomizu-dera Part 1 (and a short Japanese lesson on directions thrown in!)

6 Dec

Apple is back too, because I’m back! YAY!!! 😀 😀 😀 Don’t miss her Japanese lesson at the latter part of this post!!!!

===Apple’s post starts from here===

Hi!! This is Apple!

I’m really happy that Kirin decided to go on with TKE. I’ve been meaning to write but have been busy.

Firstly, it feels like a long time since I’ve been to Tokyo, so I can’t write much of Tokyo places or trends for now. I went to Kansai in Spring this year, so I thought of sharing some interesting places I’ve been to when I was there. I wrote some articles (Shirahama & Kobe) early this year just after coming back from my trip, but I think maybe they were not interesting because nobody really left any comments. T^T Haha!

Ok, anyway, today I’m going to share with you one of my favourite places in Kansai!

It’s Kyoto!!

Being a city kind of girl really (I love Tokyo!), I’d initially thought Kyoto would be dull to me. My boyfriend was very excited though.

One of the places we visited in Kyoto is the famous tourist attraction, Kiyomizudera (清水寺)! Kiyomizu (清水) means clear water, or pure water. The temple is so named as there’s a waterfall of pure water within the complex.

Fun Fact: Not a single nail was used in the entire wooden structure of this temple!

Being Spring, we’d expected a scenery like this:


 However, this was what greeted us:

We were too early for Sakura! T^T

Anyway, we were there because I wanted to see Jishu Shrine (more on that later), but we couldn’t find it anywhere.

We walked around and found ourselves here.

These are Jizo statues. They are dressed in coloured clothing for Spring!! It was an amazing sight to behold.

Jizo is the the protector of children and travelers, and while my boyfriend and I were standing there in awe, we came to a decision to go back to the main entrance of Kiyomizudera where many tourists were gathered at and search for Jishu Shrine again!

There’s no free admission to the various temples in Kyoto, we realised soon enough. I was reluctant to pay 300yen each to enter Kiyomizudera, as I’d really wanted to see Jishu Shrine instead, and wanted to save my money to enter that should it need an entrance fee too. Also, on our way to Kiyomizudera, we had already spent 100yen each entering a mysterious place!

It was like this: We were near to the entrance of Kiyomizudera and we saw many people at this little counter. A man was also giving out plastic bags to visitors to put their shoes. Visitors climb down a flight of stairs, where you couldn’t see where it led to! And then there’s another flight of stairs where visitors come back up.

My boyfriend and I were so intrigued! We had no idea we needed to pay for it until we asked the man giving out the bags what this was about.

Turned out it’s Zuigudo Hall!

Zuigudo Hall is a pitch black basement underneath the temple and is named after Buddha’s mother, Daizuigu Bosatsu. The basement was designed to symbolise a mother’s womb.

In the middle of the basement, there’s a large stone with the Sanskrit word ‘womb’ carved onto its front.

When I asked the man what this was about, he explained to me enthusiastically but I could only make out the words “make a wish with your hand touching the stone while walking around it”. In my excitement, I forgot to tell this to my boyfriend.

As we walked down the stairs into the basement, it gradually got darker. The pathway is narrow and can only admit one person at a time.

When you reach the bottom of the basement, IT’S REALLY REALLY REALLY DARK. You wouldn’t be able to see A THING. You wouldn’t even be able to see your fingers.

Note that they enter people constantly, so there are people in front and behind you. You wouldn’t dare to stop walking because then, you would be blocking people behind you. And you will only dare walk slowly because there are people in front of you. You can hear them, but you can’t see them!

At first when people just got down to the bottom of the basement, they all went, “I can’t see anything!” “It’s really dark here!” “Yabai!” “Oh my, really? Is it safe to walk like that?”

I was scared too. I was wondering if there’d be more stairs, and you really didn’t know how big the place was and how it was structured. I was also afraid I would never find the exit.

I began fearfully but gradually relaxed when I suddenly felt safe. There was a thick rope you could hold onto to guide you along the way. It became quieter as you went deeper into the basement. Everyone probably started to relax too upon knowing they’re safe.

When I saw the tiny glow of the stone, and made out other people’s hands on it, I did the same thing as them, putting my left hand onto the stone. The stone was smooth and cool, and you just made your way around it while making a wish. At a point of time, you will notice the hand in front of you removed from the stone. You just do the same thing and follow the person in front of you out. I have to say, you still wouldn’t be able to see the person in front of you. You could see his/hand while it’s still on the stone because the stone had a faint glow of light.

Actually, while in the darkness, I trusted a lot on my instincts. It was a really interesting experience. I even wished the journey was longer! Haha! Now that I know that this basement actually represents a mother’s womb, I just feel that it’s a really meaningful place to visit!

My boyfriend was behind me when we went in, but I waited ages for him to come out from the basement! Just when I started to feel worried for him, he was ‘born again’, out from the mother’s womb! I asked him what took him so long?! Apparently, he lost his way when he reached the stone. I think he walked around the stone one million times. -____-“

And he didn’t know we could make a wish while touching the stone! Hahahaha! I laughed for the longest time.

When we were excitedly chattering about our experiences, a handsome Caucasian man approached us and asked in the most fluent Japanese ever whether we could help him with reading his lot.

The lot was written entirely in difficult Japanese that even Japanese themselves might not understand. I only recognised that his was an average lot. Or was it? I only remember that he was very handsome.

Ok, I have to remind you that I was actually writing about finding Jishu Shrine. After many failed attempts of trying to find our way, I decided to ask a personnel there where Jishu Shrine was.

Ah, I have decided to throw in a Japanese lesson here!

Excuse me, how do I go to Jishu Shrine?


(Sumimasen, jishu jinjya wa doyatte iki masuka?)

すみません Sumimasen means ‘Excuse me’ or ‘Sorry’.

地主神社 Jishu jinjya is the place I wanted to go: Jishu Shrine. 神社 (Jinjya) is the word for Shrine.

どうやって Douyatte means ‘How’.

行きます Ikimasu is an action verb which means ‘to go’

か Ka is just a question marker.

Basically, if you want to know how to go to somewhere, you just use this form:

すみません、(place you want to go) はどうやって行きますか?

Sumimasen, ________ wa douyatte ikimasuka?

Or, if you think it’s too rude to just ask someone how to go to somewhere and you are the type who prefers being a little bit vague, you can just use this:

すみません、____ へ行きたいのですが。。。

Sumimasen, ________ e iki tai no desuga….

It’s like, “I’m sorry, I’d like to go to ______”

* -たい -tai means want.

How to use: Drop the -masu of the action verb (for e.g. 行きます ikimasu), and replace it with -たい-tai. So it becomes 行きたい ikitai.
Likewise, if you want to say you want to eat something.
Eat: 食べます (tabemasu)
Want to eat: 食べたい (tabetai)

Trust me, they will understand what you are trying to ask.

Simple right?

Tricky part is actually when they answer you of course. Haha!

Well, if you are not very proficient in Japanese, this is what you can do. Get a paper and pencil/pen for them to maybe draw out the answer for you? I got lost in Tokyo once, and the policeman guided me back to my hotel using paper and pencil to draw a simple map for me.

Or! You can learn some words to understand briefly the directions you will receive. Look out for these words:

まっすぐ massugu (straight ahead)

å·¦ hidari (left)

右 migi (right)

左に曲がる hidari ni magaru (to turn left)

右に曲がる migi ni magaru (to turn right)

遠い tooi (bad news. haha! sorry sorry! It means ‘far’.)

近い chikai (good news yay! It means ‘close’.)

近くに chikaku ni (Usually used like this: コンビニの近くに konbini no chikaku ni. Which means somewhere near the convenience store. yes, conbini コンビニ means convenience store, but I think you know it already. ^^”)

隣り tonari (next to)

前 mae (in front of)

後ろushiro (behind)

I really wanted to just write about my trip, but I ended up giving a Japanese lesson. -__-” Sorry if it bored you! Well, anyway,

I asked the personnel and he told me that it’s inside Kiyomizudera, so off we went to purchase tickets for entering




That’s my boyfriend’s awful fingernail.

It was actually really fun inside the Kiyomizudera!

For one, it’s HUGE!

There are a lot of things you can do and see once you go in.

Oh! By the way, before you enter the temple, you will see this right outside the entrance:


I overheard this Taiwanese tour guide telling his tour group something interesting! In Chinese, we call our tap 水龙头 which literally means “Water Dragon Head”. Chinese dragons are strongly associated with water. It was a popular belief among the Chinese that it’s the dragon (Ying Long) in the sky spewing out water that gives us rain. So, in ancient China, many taps are carved into Dragon’s Head mimicking the myth of the Dragon, hence the name.

There’s another story that says when China first received Japan’s invention of a fire-extinguishing water pump, the huge amount of water that can be pumped out reminded them of the dragon, so they named all water-flowing faucets as such.

One of the first things you will see as you enter Kiyomizudera, is many people trying to lift these 2 heavy poles up. These poles are meant to demonstrate how strong you are, proving your worth to protect this temple.

It’s really heavy. 重い omoi!!!!

This entry turned out to be very long! I haven’t even started writing about Jishu Shrine!  Ok, my laptop is running out of battery, so I will stop here for now. Stay tuned for part 2, where my boyfriend and I finally find Jishu Shrine! Jishu Shrine is very interesting!!!

It’s the famous shrine where you pray for all things regarding love. Many interesting things in there I want to share with you! I hope you enjoyed reading this post. ^^

===end of the post===
Kirin’s opinion:
Thank you Apple for sharing your interesting experience with us. It may sound weird to you all, but I’m a Japanese who is not very familiar with Kyoto myself. When I tried to enter Kiyomizudera when I visited Kyoto for the first time in many years, I was too late for its opening hours. I may have visited there at a time of school trip but already forgotten…:p

Apple, I like your Japanese lessons. I can’t even think of what kind of phrases are wanted. 😀


11 Responses to “Apple's adventures in Kiyomizu-dera Part 1 (and a short Japanese lesson on directions thrown in!)”

  1. Apple December 7, 2012 at 3:15 am #

    haha kirin! I just read your kyoto post again, and we have the same feelings about Kyoto!

    I am not interested in old, ancient, traditional things too, but Kyoto really surprised me. In the end, I loved Kyoto most of all when I was in Kansai! It left a deep impression on me!

    • kirin December 9, 2012 at 6:50 am #

      Thank you Apple for this post. I wish I could talk more about Kyoto like you do. ^ ^;;;
      It's nice that Kyoto has changed your impression that much.
      Thanks again for this post. ^_^

  2. Elle December 8, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing this entry Apple, Apple's boyfriend and Kirin. Shrines are one in my top favourites about Japan, I follow a few blogs that talk about them only and right now I'm currently a big fan of Kamisama Hajimemashita!. Who knows, perhaps this fascination comes from other previous lives of mine 😀

    Thanks for the Japanese lessons and already waiting the second part 🙂

    • Apple December 11, 2012 at 8:30 am #

      Thank you so much for your kind comment! ^^

  3. Salma December 9, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    Thanks a lot for this great post, Apple, and for the very helpful Japanese lesson. ^_^

    • Apple December 14, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

      I'm glad you found it useful!!! ^^ Thank you so much for reading and leaving a comment!!! ^^

  4. Alberto January 2, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

    So little amount of comments for this amazing post…

    And a lot of interesting information!!!! I love this post, and I hope you can write the second part.
    I'm sorry I couldn't comment before… You know I'm quite busy, but I read every post in TKE sooner or later 😀

    It is a shame you couldn't visit Kiyomizudera during Sakura… I'm sure that is a beautiful place.

    One thing that I find interesting is how in Japan a lot of places are named after natural things, for example, the "Pure Water".
    Of course we have here places with this kind of names but not that much.

    Also shocked me to know that the Japanese people is still a very spiritual people. For example with the Jizu statues, there are people still decorating them. And they look awesome and interesting to know more about them.

    What I don't understand is that Kiyomizudera basement. You say it is a basement, but you describe it more like a cave. In either case, it looks an interesting place.
    I think your boyfriend kept walking in circles around the stone without noticing it Hahaha

    And your JP lesson.. THANKS A LOT FOR IT!!! 😀
    It is very very useful.
    I know Sumimasen is excuse me, used to ask someone for directions or ask something (thanks Kirin for that lesson!!!).
    But how do you say "I'm sorry"? I mean, when you push someone in the darkness of Kiyomizudera, what do you say to say pardon?

    When I visit Japan some day I will ask Kirin to show me this great place. There are so much interesting things to see and visit… And I like to see and read about things in Japan that are somehow hidden to the common tourist!!!

    Thanks for your great post Apple. And we are waiting for the second part!!!! I can't wait to know about Jishu Shrine!!!! Thanks Apple.

    And thanks Kirin for sharing Apple's post with all TKE fans

    Arigato Gozaimasu ^_^

    • Apple January 6, 2013 at 3:35 am #

      wa Alberto!! Thank you so much for your comment! I love reading long comments especially when I've written a long post! hahaha!

      The basement I went to is indeed like a cave!! I can't describe the inside of the basement very well because it's total darkness in there. It is right under the shrine, and there are only 2 tiny doorways with stairs leading down to it. It felt like a cave to me. Haha!

      As for your question, "Sumimasen!" can be used for when you accidentally push someone in front of you. "Gomen!!" can also be used.

      The difference between these 2 though, is that "Sumimasen" is more versatile as it can express apology AND using it for "Excuse me".

      "Gomen" is purely used for apologising.

      Yes, Japan is very interesting!!! Definitely check Kyoto out if you're there. It's beautiful with many different shrines. My friend brought me to this tiny shrine where people go there to pray for healthy, beautiful hair. It's interesting right?

      I will write about Jishu Shrine soon! Thank you so much for reading and commenting!!! ^^

  5. Alberto January 11, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    Wa Apple !!!

    I wish I could live in Japan!!!
    Actually I'm around 10000 Kilometers away from you. You probably know where I live, or you may ask Kirin about it. She already knows. 😛

    So, Sumimasen is more versatile. Thanks for the tip 😀

    I will let you know if I go visit JP some day so you show me all those things that are not much turistical but are interesting. I know I said Kirin that I want to travel to JP this year, but I'm not sure if it will be possible due to economical reasons… and my GF that still thinks that Japan is the same as China and she doesn't like Chinese people at all. I can't find a way to convince her that Japan is not like China. 😥


    • kirin January 14, 2013 at 2:59 am #

      China and Japan are very different in many ways although these two countries are close each other and use similar characters and people look alike. Seeing is believing. Take her to Japan anyhow and she will see. ^ ^


  1. はじめまして! | Apple Loves Japan! - May 30, 2014

    […] Kiyomizudera in Kyoto (Tourist […]

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