I’ll bet you read the title and thought this would be about Kiyomizu-dera of Kyoto. Surprise! There’s more than one temple of pure water–this one is about a couple hundred years older, and affiliated with the Tendai sect of Buddhism rather than the Kitahosso sect like the one in Kyoto. This one in the San’in region (of course), specifically Yasugi City, Shimane Prefecture, on the border of Tottori Prefecture.

Like a great number of old temples and towns across of Japan, over the course of its history it has gone through many fires and reconstructions. The temple itself is 1400 years old, but the oldest surviving building is its main hall, Konpondo, which was reconstructed in 1393 and renovated in 1992, both times funded by the faithful. After it was tied up in (or burned up in) the battles between the Mori and Amago clans in the warring states era, the Horio clan of Matsue saw to the reconstruction of many of the other buildings.

One of the major things that has earned this temple so many faithful followers is its reputation for yakubarai, or “expelling evil.” Like many other cultures around the world, Japanese culture has notions of supernatural luck and influences, and there are times you are more prone to bad influences than others. In particular, there are certain unlucky ages called yakudoshi when you are especially susceptible. Shrines and temples that specialize in this often have a large sign posted about what ages people need to watch out for.

“How is your destiny at 25 years old?”

Deeply religious people entering these years have the option of paying about ¥5000 (roughly $50 USD) to undergo a purification ritual. I’m not very familiar with these rituals, but I’ve seen some of them advertised as only taking about 15 minutes. I also don’t have any knowledge of how many people have these rituals performed. Others may simply be more cautious than usual during those ages.

While both Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples offer yakubarai rituals and protective charms and talismans, they seem to differ on which years are lucky and which ones are not. The first time I saw one of these boards at a Shinto shrine, I was entering the unlucky part of my luck cycle (luck tends to build and then plummet and start over). A handful of years later, and now according to this temple, I am once again entering a bad luck period. Maybe I should time my visits so I only visit places that say I’m having good luck?

There are other reasons for visiting any given shrine or temple, though. Many have reputations as nature-viewing spots (Kiyomizu-dera is known for its cherry blossoms as well as its autumn leaves), and others provide a retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life. We went as just another part of enjoying a hot summer day.

Hot and humid those Japanese summers are, it’s cooler in the forests and up the mountains.

On the short hike up (or down) from the parking lots, there are a handful of inns where visitors stay during the heights of cherry blossom or maple leaf seasons, as well as restuarants providing Buddhist-style vegetarian cuisine.

Besides Konpondo, one of the other famous buildings in the treasure tower, a the 3-story pagoda–the only one of its kind in the San’in region. While many pagodas in Japan are just for viewing from the outside, this is one of the few you can climb up from the inside.

Leave your shoes outside, and climb on up! It was a narrow space and hard to say whether you climb stairs or ladders.

I thought it was fun, but it was even more fun to go with someone who was afraid of heights.

Around the center pillar and on each level, there were a number of little treasures.

I also really liked seeing the complex woodwork. Lacking the mind of an architect, I don’t understand how it works, but it looks neat.

And, of course, there was a stunning view. Can you spot the tip of Lake Nakaumi?

Being named after the pure water the mountain is known for, there are a number of uses for that pure water. Hence, the temple is also known for its youkan, a traditional confection described here in more detail.

We took home some gelato made with said youkan.

It was the kind of summer temple visit that was refreshing in more ways than one.