When looking at apartments in Kyoto, Mrs. Selfish and I decided we wanted to stay somewhere that was decidedly old world. After all, we were staying in one of Japan’s oldest cities, so what was the point of renting a sleek apartment?
In the end we settled on a place in the Higashiyama ward, a culturally protected area with tons of traditional style buildings. While the apartment itself was not in the traditional style, we were in an excellent location to explore some of Kyoto’s more beautiful (if not heavily touristed) streets.
The Higashiyama ward has a lot of nice streets and small shops. While it is packed full of tourist traps, it still somehow manages to retain its charm.
The density of shops culminates in a narrow street full of street vendors and souvenir shops, dropping you at the entrance to the World Heritage Kiyomizu Temple (The “Pure Water” Temple). Entrance costs 300 yen.
The temple is stunning on pretty much any day, but really sings during a crisp fall day, or cherry-blossom studded spring morning. Unfortunately we missed cherry blossom season by a few weeks, but the temple was still gorgeous nonetheless.
Even though it is a buddhist temple, the complex boasts a variety of shinto shrines, each which offer differing benefits to the believer. One such shrine is the Jinshu Shrine which is dedicated to the god of love and good matches.
There are tons of charms for people to purchase, and a pair of matching love stones placed roughly 20 feet apart. It is believed that someone who successfully walks from one stone to the other with their eyes closed will find true love. A little strange, considering this is on the grounds of a Buddhist temple, but the two live side by side in Japan.
Charms for true love, safe driving, and just about everything else!
Another, more dangerous belief, involves jumping off the 13 meter high stage. According to the popular wisdom of the Edo period, anyone who successfully jumped off the stage and survived would have their wish granted.
Of the 234 recorded jumps during that period, 85% of the jumpers survived. I would imagine their only wish after they jumped off the stage was to survive the fall, so maybe it’s no surprise that so many survived, right?
13 meters is a long, long way to go.
The last belief revolving around one of Kiyomizu’s sites is much more benign, and involves drinking some of the water from the temple’s spring. Visitors catch water with a cup attached to a long pole, and each stream provides different benefits like longevity, prosperity, and a good love life. Be warned, however, it’s considered poor form to drink from all three!
The Higashiyama ward is one of the most beautiful parts of Kyoto. If you only have a few days in Kyoto, I’d definitely invest half a day strolling its ancient walkways, and visiting Kiyomizu Temple. And who knows? Maybe you’ll get lucky and get a wish or two granted.
Just don’t try jumping off the stage.