Kinkakuji Temple – The Golden Pavilion
Kinkakuji Temple or the Golden Pavilion is one of Kyoto's most jaw-dropping sights. Prepare for you visit with our comprehensive guide.
Buried by snow in winter or shimmering in the heat of summer, Kinkakuji is the most symbolic of Kyoto’s temples. The reflection of this golden temple on the “mirror lake” is one of the city’s enduring images and one that tourists never forget. The zen atmosphere, beautiful buildings and lush nature make this one of Kyoto’s most popular spots. Read on for all the details.
Kinkakuji Temple Overview
Located in the north-west of Kyoto, the temple was first built in the 14th century as the retirement villa of shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. Upon his death in 1408 the building became a Zen Buddhist temple and began to be frequented by wealthy families of feudal Kyoto. The temple has several times been threatened with destruction, most significantly during the Onin War (1467-1477) and in 1950 by the inexperience of a novice monk. Major repair work began in 1955 and returned the temple to its former glory. In 1994 the temple was designated as a Unesco World Heritage site.
The temple pavilion is split into two floors, each with a distinct design. The first is dedicated to Shaka Buddha and inspired by Heian-era architecture. The second floor is dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy, Kannon Bodhisattva, and although entry into this sacred space is forbidden, visitors can still peek a glance of the interior through the perennially open windows.
The temple gardens are one of the highlights of the temple, with flora and fauna of all kinds sprouting from all angles. Outside the exit find a stretch of souvenir shops, a small tea garden and Fudo Hall, a small temple hall which houses a prominent statue of mythological Fudo Myoo.
Each season is an event in itself at Kinkakuji, bringing with it fleeting charm and a new way to appreciate the temple. A victim of its own success, the temple is one of Kyoto’s busier all year round. Notwithstanding, the temple is still well worth braving the crowds for.
In spring and summer, the vivid greens of the abundant foliage and the blue skies become the perfect background for the golden temple and its reflection on the water.
When autumn comes around the garden is covered in deep red Momiji leaves, complimenting the gold of the temple wonderfully.
In winter, the pavilion and frozen lake are coated in immaculate white snow. Although this only tends to last a few short days each year, if you’re lucky enough to catch it, you won’t be disappointed.
The temple is accessible at any time of the year, even on national holidays and at New Year. To beat the crowds it is recommended that you schedule your visit for the early morning or around sunset. Do this and you’ll at once avoid any annoyance and catch the temple at its most beautiful.
Mon – Sun
Entry to the temple itself is prohibited
Kinkakujicho, Kyoto,J apan
09.00am – 05.00pm
To access the temple, take buses 101 or 205 from Kyoto Station and alight at the Kinkakujimichi bus stop. The journey takes roughly 40 minutes and costs 230 yen. Alternatively, the nearest train station to Kinkakuji is Kitanohakubaicho.