garden, architecture, art

Kiyomizu Kannon-do


Kiyomizu Kannon-do is a hall dedicated to Kannon, located in Ueno Onshi Park.

There is no single temple called Kiyomizu Kannon-do, but rather the hall of Toeizan Kan’eiji, the family temple of the Tokugawa Shoguns.

Within the Ueno Park area, which used to be the precincts of Toeizan Kan’eiji, it is the oldest existing structure. In order to maintain the building, a conservation and restoration project took place in 1996, and the building has been restored to its original appearance. It is also a national Important Cultural Property.

It has a large stage like Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto, and stands on a hill overlooking Shinobazu Pond. Its ‘moon pine’ appears in Utagawa Hiroshige’s ukiyo-e, ‘One Hundred Famous Views of Edo’.



Kiyomizu Kannon-do was built in 1631 by High Priest Tenkai, founder of Toeizan Kan’ei-ji in the Tendai sect of Buddhism. Hoping to turn Kan’eiji into a place of prayer and relaxation for the common people of Edo, he likened the mountains of Ueno to Mount Hiei and Shinobazu Pond to Lake Biwa, and as part of this, Kiyomizu Kannon-do was likened to Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto.

The main building of the temple overhangs the slope of the Ueno mountain and offers a good view because it is built in the ‘Butai-zukuri’ (stage style), following the style of Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto. The slope leading from Shinobazu Pond to the temple is also named ’Shimizu-zaka’.

Initially, the temple was built on a small hill called ‘Suribachi-yama’ in the present Ueno Park. However at the beginning of the Genroku period, it was decided that the ‘Konponchudo’, the main building of Kan’eiji, would be built where the fountain plaza is now, so it was moved to the present location in 1694.

Later, Kan’eiji became a battlefield during the Battle of Ueno (1898) of the Boshin War, and all the major buildings were burned down. Only a few buildings, including the Kiyomizu Kannon-do and the five-story pagoda, survived the fire.


Moon Pine

In the middle of the front of the stage, there is a ‘moon pine,’ which was depicted in an ukiyoe by Utagawa Hiroshige. The pine tree was in a circular shape, just like the moon.

The first moon pine was lost in a typhoon during the Meiji period, so the current one is the second generation, restored in December 2012. It was restored using modern landscaping techniques, and now a spare pine tree is planted nearby in case something happens to it.

Wishing Ball

It is said that by throwing a wishing ball from the stage of Kiyomizu, your wish will be fulfilled. While making a wish, throw the beanbag like ball toward the moon shaped circle at the bottom of the stage. If you successfully place the ball on the circle, your wish will come true.


Thousand-Armed Kannon Bodhisattva

The main deity of the Kiyomizu Kannon-do is the Thousand-Armed Kannon Bodhisattva. The statue is said to have been carved by a high priest of the Heian period, Eshin Sozu himself, and was originally enshrined at Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto. The statue is unveiled only on the day of ‘Hatsuuma Horaku’, which is held on the first horse day of February every year.

Kosodate Kannon

Enshrined on the right is the ‘Kosodate Kannon,’ a kannon of fertility, safe childbirth, and childrearing, which has been worshipped by many since the Edo period.

Traditionally, parents who prayed to Kannon for a child would dedicate a doll in gratitude for fulfilment of their wish, and also to wish for the child’s safe growth. Nowadays, the ceremony has become a form of doll memorial service to express gratitude for beloved dolls. Dolls that were broken while playing are also given to the shrine.

The doll memorial service is held every year on September 25 at 2:00 pm.


Shushiki Cherry Tree

Behind the main hall, there is a cherry blossom known since Edo period as the ‘Shushiki Cherry Blossom’.

In the Edo period, a thirteen-year-old daughter of a confectioner in Nihonbashi wrote a haiku and hug it on a cherry blossom branch. The haiku was praised by Rinnoji no Miya, the abbot of Kan’eiji at the time. When the girl grew up, she became a haiku poet under the tutelage of Takarai Kikaku, and took the name Ome Shushiki. In commemoration of this, the cherry tree was named ‘Shushiki Cherry Blossom’. It is said to be the ninth generation of its kind.

Auther:Hiroko Hirachi

Writer for website, magazine, and newspaper. Used to be a newspaperman. Also active as a yoga teacher, teaching at temple.