This stunning temple, glittering with gold leaf, is a renowned Buddhist site, first built in the 1300s as a shogun.
The Temple of the Golden Pavilion is a spectacular work of 14th century art that befits its higher purpose. The top floors of the temple are covered in precious gold leaf, and when the sunlight glints off this surface, the temple shines like a jewel. The temple is built at the side of a pond, with its beautiful golden hue and sweeping rooftops reflecting in the water. Whether you see it on a sunny summer's day or under a light dusting of snow in the winter, it is a truly impressive and significant building – so it's little surprise that it was official designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.
The temple, nestled within the Hokuzan Mountains, was originally built as the residence for the Shogun Ashikago, but when the shogun died in the 15th century, this beautiful building became a Zen Buddhist temple. This initial adaptation, and the fact the building has been damaged and rebuilt several times during its history, explains the impressive variety of architectural styles represented in the building. Walk around its exterior and you will discover influences ranging from traditional Chinese Zen architecture to the palace architecture of the Hein period.
It is believed that the Golden Pavilion, also called Kinkaku-ji, is home to some of Buddha’s ashes, and visitors will discover a number of religious statues and shrines along the path – where they can throw their coins for good luck.
During your visit, take a moment or two to relax and collect your thoughts in the garden, which was designed to allow Shogun Ashikaga to meditate. You should also take a look inside Fudo Hall, which features a sculpture of Fudo Myoo; one of the famous five kings of wisdom, who protected Buddha.
It takes only about one hour to get to the Temple of the Golden Pavilion via bus from Kyoto Station. The temple is open every day, has a small garden café which serves tea and snacks and charges a small admission fee.