Kinkakuji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion or Pagoda, is one of the most iconic and visited landmarks in Kyoto, famous for its stunning golden exterior and picturesque surroundings. (Kinkakuji Official WEB site)
Originally built in the late 14th century as a retirement villa for the 3rd shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, Kinkakuji later transformed into a Zen Buddhist temple after his death. The temple’s name “Kinkaku” means “Golden Pavilion” in Japanese, referring to the lavish gold leaf covering the upper two floors of the structure.
Ashikaga Yoshimitsu took over the villa of Saionji Kokei, a court noble, and built this temple to represent the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss. It was not until after Ashikaga Yoshimitsu’s death that it became a temple.
Building and garden
The three-story structure of Kinkakuji represents different architectural styles. The first floor, called “Shinden-zukuri,” reflects the style of aristocratic residences from the Heian period. The second floor, “Buke-zukuri,” is reminiscent of samurai warrior houses, while the uppermost floor, “Karayo,” is in the traditional Zen temple style.
Unfortunately, the temple has faced several challenges throughout its history. It has been destroyed multiple times by fires and wars, with the most recent reconstruction dating back to 1955. Despite these setbacks, the current structure closely resembles the original, maintaining its historical and cultural significance.
The temple is situated within a beautifully landscaped garden that includes a large pond, various sculptures, and trees. The pond reflects the golden temple, creating a mesmerizing sight and a popular subject for photographers and artists. The garden itself is in a classical Japanese style, incorporating elements such as stones, bridges, and islands. They symbolize different aspects of nature and spirituality.
Kinkakuji Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site and attracts numerous visitors from around the globe.
How to visit Kinkakuji
The nearest bus stop is the Kinkakuji-mae bus stop on Nishioji-dori. There are quite a few services from Kyoto Station and other major stations. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about the ride time, etc. so much.
The temple gate opens at 9:00 a.m., so we recommend getting there as early as possible. There are fewer visitors in the early morning and the temple building is beautiful in the morning sun.