One of the most beautiful sites in Kyoto is the UNESCO World Heritage site Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion, which dazzles the eye as it sparkles in the sunshine. The official name of the temple is Rokuon-ji but it is better known to most as Kinkaku-ji. The building is covered in real gold leaf and the setting is absolutely breathtaking too. Take a stroll through the grounds and take in the view of this real beauty, nestled in the low hills and surrounded by a huge pond called Kyoko-chi, the mirror pond. If lucky enough to get a wind free day you can see a full reflection of the main building in the pond. This place also has an interesting story to it. Built between 1397-1400, this was originally the villa of a retired shogun named Yoshimitsu Ashikaga. The building survived centuries of warfare and was spared from bombing in World War II, only to be burnt down by a young deranged monk in 1950. The current building is a replica of the original but still worth a visit and you will see many agree by the number of daily visitors.
When you enter the grounds, you will first walk along the long path towards the place to purchase tickets. Once you have the tickets in hand you can enter the gates and just around the corner is a narrow path when you can get a great view of the temple across the pond. Lots of people here clamouring to get a great photo so you might have to be patient to get a great shot. Now you can walk closer to the building itself and make sure to stop and get a photo of the reflection of the pavilion in the pond. After that, wander behind the pavilion and get a closer look of the phoenix on the top of the building. This is also a replica with the original surviving the fire and now housed in the national museum. Behind the pavilion, climb a few stairs to get to a different perspective of the garden looking down at the top floor with the wooded hills as a backdrop.
Not to be missed is a very small and plain looking hut called the Sekka-tei tea hut. This was rebuilt in 1874 based on the original built in the mid 1600's. This is a now classic 4.5 tatami mat design, retains the aesthetic of "wabi-sabi" loosely translated as the beauty of rustic simplicity and longing for completeness. After a look inside you can now wander towards the exit stopping to pray at the sub temple "Fudo-do" and along the way browsing the stands selling many trinkets and snacks.
This is a very popular temple in Kyoto so it is recommended to get here early or late to get a less crowded experience. Of course even with crowds it's a very pleasant experience and definitely on the must see list for anyone visiting Kyoto.
Opening Hours: 9:00-17:00 (sometimes earlier in winter, check the website for changes in hours)
Admission Fee: 500 yen for Adults, 300 yen for Elementary & Junior High Students
We can take you there on a guided experience. Click here for bike tours or here for private walk & taxi experience.
My name is Niall. Canadian born, Irish in heritage, I now call Kyoto, Japan home and I absolutely love it here. Founder of Kyoto Fun and Japan Adventures, both are dedicated to making for a pleasant introduction to Japan for first time visitors and sharing our knowledge of this great city and country.