A short hike to the east from Goreme brought us to the Love Valley, a little valley with bizarre fairy chimneys – rock pillars capped with dark basalt. Compared to the ones in Goreme, the fairy chimneys in the valley are much slenderer. We pretty much had the valley all by ourselves, except a few occasional hikers. There wasn’t much signage so we had to find our way on our own. Back then, there weren’t any smartphone with us too. We ended up reaching the White Valley and the village of Uchisar towards the end of our walk.
It was impressive to see all these fairy chimneys in the Love Valley.
The trail first took us to a higher ground to appreciate the rock pillars.
It isn’t hard to figure out why the place is called Love Valley.
Despite the somehow arid climate in the area, the valley was quite green at certain places.
It was hard to imagine from the first glance that the pillars were carved out from eroding the surrounding ground, instead of extruding out from earth.
As we walked to other areas, rock formations changed gradually.
There are actually numerous valleys around Goreme that we could visit: Love Valley, Rose Valley, White Valley, Red Valley, Pigeon Valley, etc.
Thick clouds gathered in the valley as we approached the village of Uchisar.
Equally stunning, the rock formations of the White Valley resemble a sea of white waves.
The Kiyomizu-dera in early morning offered quite a big contrast compared to our previous night visit. Tranquility replaced commotion of excited crowds. Soft sunlight took over artificial floodlights. After entering the Nio-men Gate (仁王門), we walked up to the main temple platform along with several local visitors. To avoid the tourist crowds coming in an hour or so, we first made our way to the Hondo (本堂), or the Main Hall. At the entrance of the wooden Kiyomizu Stage (清水の舞台), we tried lifting the displayed Steel Geta and Steel Shakujou, two Buddhist objects dedicated to Benkei (武蔵坊弁慶), a 12th century warrior monk who was famous for his loyalty and strength. We could lift up the lighter Shakujou (12 kg/26 lbs), but definitely not the heavy Geta (90 kg/ 198 lbs). We wandered on the wooden stage for a while, and went over to the deck of Okunoin Hall for an overview of the Main Hall, the colourful autumn maples and the distant skyline of Kyoto.
A flight of stone steps adjacent to the Main Hall led us to the popular Jishu Shrine (地主神社), a Shinto shrine dedicated to Okuninushi no Mikoto (大国主命), a deity of love and matchmaking. Perched above the thatched roof of the Main Hall, the Jishu Shrine is consisted of a cluster of small shrines around a main shrine. The shrine is popular for lonely hearts who are seeking for real love, as well as couples who are praying for consolidation of their relationships. At the forecourt of Jishu, two rocks stand 18m apart from each other. Legend said that if one can walk from one rock to the other with their eyes shut, then their wishes for love would come true. Names of donors from all over Japan and foreign countries are displayed inside and outside the shrine, indicating just how universal a simple wish for love is. Apart from love, visitors also come to pray for good fortunate and safety for their family, and smooth delivery for their babies.
As we descended back to the Main Hall, the sun had finally moved above the mountain and shined on the temple buildings. We made a detour to the temple forecourt for a few more pictures of the buildings under the morning sun. We then walked south towards the small Koyasu-no-to Pagoda, or Easy Child-birth Pagoda, at the far end of the valley. Standing right by the Koyasu-no-to Pagoda and looked across the valley, we had a great view of the Kiyomizu-dera as the shadow of eastern mountains gradually receded. We continued down the valley path to the base of Kiyomizu Stage, where we encountered multiple groups of school students who came for a school trip with their teachers and tour guides. A large group of the school students gathered at the Otowa Waterfall, waiting for their turn to taste the sacred water from one of the three waterfall streams. Given the super long queue, we gave up the idea of trying it ourselves. After a night stroll and an early morning visit, we truly enjoyed Kiyomizu-dera with its magnificent timber architecture, spiritual atmosphere, natural setting, and views of the city. It was time for us to move on to other places in Higashiyama and Gion before the afternoon rain arrived.
We entered the temple from the main gate of Nio-men (仁王門) and walked up to the main temple platform.
Visitors tried to lift the Steel Geta (90 kg/ 198 lbs) and Steel Shakujou (12 kg/ 26 lbs) at the entrance of Kiyomizu Stage.
The Main Hall and Stage of Kiyomizu-dera would soon be covered in scaffolding for a major renovation.
The crimson maples in front of the Kiyomizu Stage offered a poetic sense of autumn.
There were only several local visitors around, allowing us to enjoy the temple peacefully.
It was well past the peak moment but the autumn foliage was still a major enhancement to our visit of Kiyomizu-dera.
Out the wooden balustrade, we could see the small Koyasu-no-to Pagoda at the far end of the valley.
Autumn colours at the valley below Kiyomizu Stage.
The Main Hall and Kiyomizu Stage as seen from the deck of Okunoin Hall.
Close up of the structure of Kiyomizu Stage and the valley path.
The stair that led us up to the Jishu Shrine, a sacred place for worshipers seeking for fortune of love.
One of the two love stones in the forecourt of Jishu Shrine.
The main shrine of Jishu Shrine was covered with names of donors.
One of the several small shrines at Jishu Shrine where worshipers can make a variety of prayers and wishes, from good fortune to smooth childbirth.
Okuninushi no Mikoto, the deity of love and matchmaking, and his messager the rabbit.
Kyodo, the Sutra Hall and Sanjunoto, the Three-storey Pagoda under the morning sun.
The morning warmed up as the shadow of the eastern mountains receded from the autumn maples below Kiyomizu Stage.
Not until we reached the far end of the valley that we realized the Koyasu-no-to Pagoda, or Easy Child-birth Pagoda, was actually quite small.
Overview of Kiyomizu-dera as seen from Koyasu-no-to Pagoda.
The valley path below Kiyomizu Stage was packed with school groups.
Many students were interested for a sip of the sacred water at the Otowa Waterfall.
It was already 9:30am when we left Kiyomizu-dera.
Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan