It's one of the largest temple complexes in Kyoto. It's also the most visited Kyoto attraction.
Kiyomizu-dera temple has a fascinating history. People used to jump off it's 13 meter (42 foot) high stage. Anyone who survived the fall was supposedly granted a wish. Of the 234 people who tried it 200 survived. The practice is strictly forbidden today.
The temple was established in 778. The buildings of the temple have been destroyed many times by earthquake or fire. The present buildings were constructed in 1633. They don't contain a single nail. This is a novel architectural technique for such large wooden structures. It's a 17th century attempt to earthquake-proof the temple. The brackets used in the construction provide far more flex (as compared to nails) in event of an earthquake. This is all theoretical — no one actually knows how the structure would perform in a large earthquake.
There's a three streamed waterfall at Kiyomizudera that feeds a small pond. The water at Kiyomizu-dera is said to be lucky (or grant wishes). Tourists line up for a chance to drink the water.
Kiyomizu-dera is one of the few Kyoto temples that's open at night (currently until 21:30). The temple looks particularly brilliant lighten up at night.
The temple serves Buddhist vegetarian food and beer near the exit. There's also a crowded shopping street near the temple.
There are several shops in the area that dress tourists as Maiko (Geisha). The shops do a good job of it — foreign tourists often confuse them for the real thing.