The Blue Dragon of Kiyomizu-dera

Visitors to Kiyomizu-dera (a Buddhist Temple in Kyoto, Japan) may notice a large dragon statue standing guard in front of the temple – specifically, at the base of the stairs leading up to the temple’s West Gate and Three-Story Pagoda.


Given that Kiyomizu-dera is dedicated to worship of Kannon, the bodhisattva of peace and mercy, a dragon might seem out of place . . . but this particular dragon is, in fact, an incarnation of Kannon and the guardian of Kyoto. 

The blue dragon, or seiryuu, is honored at Kiyomizu-dera; at special ceremonies in March, April, and September, special prayers are said and the dragon’s image is carried around the temple (in a parade and worship event known as Seiryuue).

Although known as a goddess of compassion, Kannon is also considered a strong protector of the weak (especially children) and all those who place trust in her.

I’m hoping to feature Kiyomizu-dera in an upcoming Hiro Hattori mystery – though given Hiro and Father Mateo’s dramatic departure from the Japanese capital at the end of The Ninja’s Daughter (2016), it’s going to take all of Hiro’s ninja skills to get them back to Kyoto safely.

When visiting Kiyomizu-dera, be sure to keep an eye out for the dragon. She’ll be keeping an eye on you as well.