The Meiji and Taisho Eras in Photographs: From photographs in publications held by the National Diet Library - Tokyo, Kansai, Tohoku in Photographs


Column <Kansai>

1 Kiyomizudera (Kiyomizu Temple)

Kiyomizu Temple from
Kiyomizu Temple from "Kyoto Meishocho"

Kiyomizudera or Kiyomizu Temple, a scenic spot in Kyoto's Higashiyama, is a Buddhist temple which has many religious structures such as Nio-mon (Deva gate), the three-storied pagoda, the main hall, and the inner hall of sanctuary stand side by side, against the backdrop of the nearly 240 meter high Mt. Otowaya (or Mt. Kiyomizu). According to 'Engi' in the historic books "Fusoryakki" and "Kiyomizu-dera Engi, " it seems that Sakanoue no Tamuramaro had built a temple below Kiyomizu Waterfall, but the exact year of construction remains unknown. The temple had been a branch temple of Kofukuji, belonging to the Hosso sect of Buddhism, since the Heian period. The temple was known as a center of Kannon (Guan Yin) belief from the past. The Diary of Fujiwara no Sanesuke "Shoyuki" and classic work "Makurano Soshi" illustrate that aristocrats in those days had often visited Kiyomizudera. Even now, the temple is one of the sacred pilgrimage places to Kannon, and is a designated world cultural heritage site recognized as a ''historic monument of ancient Kyoto" in 1994, together with Hieizan Enryakuji, and others.

Stage of Kiyomizu

The image of Kiyomizudera has probably been the main hall and the stage. Since Kiyomizudera is built on a steep cliff, the stage is constructed using an architectural technique called Butai-zukuri or Kake-zukuri. The vast veranda (stage) is attached to the main hall in an integrated manner. The origin of this technique is unclear, but it seems that the word "Kakezukuru" has been used to indicate a method to build a building overhung on a sloping land, on water, or on a cliff, since about the 13th century.

The existing main hall was rebuilt in 1633 under the auspices of Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu, and is a designated national treasure. The main hall is approximately 18 meters high, and the stage is approximately 13 meters high. The floor of the stage is boarded with Japanese cypress (hinoki) made in Kiso and Tenryu. The word of "hinoki butai (stage)" in Japanese is often compared to a person's 'big stage'. Therefore, the stage is literally a "hinoki stage" both in name and in reality.

The description about the Stage of Kiyomizu first appears in "Narimichi-kyo Kuden Nikki" composed in the 12th century, where an anecdote of noble Fujiwara no Narimichi was included. Narimichi was famous for his god-like skill of Kemari (Japanese ancient ball kicking game), and the anecdote says he went and returned from the balustrade of the stage while kicking a ball. Also in "Gikeiki, " it is said that Benkei and Yoshitsune fought on the Stage of Kiyomizu, and Benkei was defeated and became a vassal of Yoshitsune. "Yagai Yuraku-Zu, also known as Kiyomizudera Yuraku-Zu, " a painting on a Japanese folding screen (byobu) that was painted in the beginning of the Edo period also illustrates people enjoying the beautiful view from the Kiyomizu Stage. In the Seigen-Sakurahime series of Kabuki-kyogen (kabuki play), the scene where jumping off from a simulated Kiyomizu stage earned reputation. Like these, throughout the ages, the Stage of Kiyomizu was a venue that generates impressive stories.

Suffering and Revival in the End of Edo Period through to the Meiji Era

Kiyomizudera had been prosperous for a long time as a religious site, but it had to go through the period of suffering.

Gessyo, Buddhist priest of Joju-in, the prime temple of Kiyomizudera, is known as a priest who belonged to the anti-foreigner (Sonno joi, a slogan for restoring the emperor and expelling the barbarians) faction. In the Ansei Purge (1858), he drowned himself into Kinko Harbor along with Takamori Saigo. As Gessyo's young brother Shinkai was also imprisoned, Kiyomizudera lost its central figures. Furthermore, Kofukuji of the head temple was ruined due to the policy of separating Shinto-ism and Buddhism (Shimbutsu Bunri) by the Meiji government and the succeeding Haibutsu Kishaku movement (a movement to abolish Buddhism by destroying Buddhist temples and statues), and the land occupied by Kiyomizudera decreased in area due to two separate condemnation orders. In combination with a reduction in income due to the transfer of the country's capital to Tokyo and the associated move of the ruling patrons, including the imperial household and court nobles, Kiyomizudera was backed into a corner.

The time of revival came when Ninkei Sonobe became the head of Kiyomizudera in 1875. As a result of his endeavors and the support of many followers, old temples and shrines, which had gone to ruin due to the Haibutsu Kishaku movement, were able to receive repairs.

In association with the establishment of Kyoto-shi (Kyoto City) in 1889, the Meiji government promoted projects to encourage new industries, such as the Lake Biwa Canal project, and in 1895, it conducted a memorial festival to celebrate the 1,100th anniversary of the Heian capital relocation and the 4th Domestic Industrial Exhibition, when the Heian Jingu and the Imperial Museum of Kyoto were founded and constructed. Finally in 1897, the Old Shrine and Temple Preservation Act was established, and the main hall of Kiyomizudera became a designated special building to be preserved as a national treasure. Due to this, the main hall and the stage received major repairs, and a memorial ceremony to celebrate the completion of the repair work was held in June 1902.

Venue for School Excursions

In "Nihon Zenkoku Jun'yu Gakusei Ensoku Shugaku Ryoko Annai" published in June 1902, Kiyomizudera standing on Otowa in Higashiyama is cited as the most sacred historic site in Kyoto, for being as one of the most spectacular sites where you can see mountains such as Mt.Kongo of Kawachi and Awaji Island, and the city of Kyoto below from the stage.

Actually, in "Kyoto Shugaku Ryoko Ki, October 1902, " the record of 65 teachers and students from Mie Prefectural Technical School who visited Kiyomizudera in October of the that year, there is a description about the spectacular view; enormous numbers of houses seen below the foot of the stage and a plain, on which the Yodo River runs seen in the South. However, a group of 50 people who visited Kiyomizudera in April of the same year from the Akita Normal School seem to have not seen the scenery from the stage. From the description in their record "Dai Sankai Shugakuryoko Ki.", it was under repair when they climbed Kiyomizudo, so they could not help going down to the valley on the right.

As an aside, the Akita Normal School's school excursion was really a grand tour. According to "Dai Sankai Shugakuryoko Ki, " they left Akita Tsuchizaki Port by ship on April 18, landed on Toyama Fushiki Port on 23th, moved to Kanazawa by land to visit Kenrokuen Garden, etc., and left Fukui Tsuruga toward Lake Biwa. After touring temples such as Ishiyama-dera and Mii-dera, they entered Kyoto to visit historic sites such as Ginkakuji, Kiyomizudera, and Sanjusangendo, and then Suma-dera and Maikohama in Kobe, moved to Osaka to see tourist spots such as Osaka Castle and Japan Mint's Osaka Office, and then entered Nara to see Horyuji, and so on. In Nara, Naito Konan, who came from Akita prefecture and was the chief editor of Osaka Asahi Shimbun, took time off from work to welcome them. After which, they went to Ise Shrine, and then visited Nagoya, Kamakura, Tokyo, Nikko and Hiraizumi, until they returned to their school on the 15th, May. It is amazing that they had traveled from Akita to Kobe in one month, in those days without any high-speed transportation like the Shinkansen, or Bullet trains. For details, please read their travel record.

Scenery from the Stage

Kiyomizudera has gone through a variety of eras. Countless numbers of human beings would have seen the scenery from the Stage. Even today, from the same place, we can look down the scenery towards eternity.