Possibly the most famous attraction in all of Kyoto, the Kinkakuji (金閣寺) Zen temple located in the North-West of Kyoto. But why is it so famous?
The reason for its popularity are without a doubt the upper two floors of the temple, which are completely covered in Golden leafs (金).
Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, a shogun of the Muromachi Period (1333-1573), once resided here with the temple as his retirement villa. Upon his will, it became a Zen temple after his death in 1408.
On the other side of Kyoto lies another Zen temple called Ginkakuji (銀閣寺), which was built by Yoshimitsu’s grandson years later. Unfortunately, that one is not covered in Silver leafs.
Kinkakuji’s architecture is very interesting. Every one of its three floors is built in a different style.
Facts & History
The first floor is built in the traditional Shinden (寝殿) Style, originating from the Heian Period (710-1185), with the typical wood pillars and white plaster walls in harmony. These illustrate a nice contrast to the upper golden part, but are subtle enough to not steal away the attention.
Inside of this floor, statues of the Buddha and Ashikaga Yoshimitsu are put on display. You unfortunately (but understandably) cannot enter the temple, but these statues are visible from outside as the windows are kept open most of the time.
The second floor is designed in the Bukke (仏家) Style typically used in Samurai residences. The outer walls are covered in Golden leafs.
Inside, Statues of the Buddha and the four heavenly Kings are put up but those are not visible to the public.
The third and final floor reminds of a Chinese Zen Hall, with a Golden Phoenix on top.
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The shogun’s residence was often target for destruction, thus was destroyed a couple times throughout history. Today’s structure was rebuilt in 1955 and is the only building that is left from Yoshimitsu’s former residence.
Kinkakuji is located at a large pond, the entrance of the area lies at the opposite end of it, giving you a nice view of the temple right upon entering.
Continuing on along the way
After getting a good view of the temple, you can continue on along the pond and pass by the head priest’s former living quarters, which are not open to the public unfortunately.
Following the path leads you past the temple itself and into the Gardens behind it. These have been preserved with their original design from back when shogun Yoshimitsu resided here.
There are statues in the gardens, which are said to bring good luck if you throw a coin at them. Also another pond can be seen here.
After passing by these, there is nice little viewing spot from which you can overview the area quite well. The Golden Phoenix on top of Kinkakuji takes quite the spotlight from this location
Then, you will make your way towards the exit, where souvenir shops, a small tea garden and the Fudo Hall are located. You can say your prayers at this hall, which was built in honor of Fudo Myoo, an important figure and protector of Japanese Buddhism.
The day I planned on visiting Kinkakuji, it started raining a little when I arrived. Not too much but enough to be annoyed about it. Even though that happened it was still a very enjoyable visit and I made the best out of it.
It was July and the rainy season had just ended so it wasn’t all that surprising.
I hope you’ll have more luck with the weather but even with a little rain it’s still a blast!
I will definitely come back here again.
Opening Hours & Admission Fee
- Kinkakuji is open every day of the week from 9am – 5pm
- There are no closing days throughout the year
- Entrance Fee is 400 Yen (3,08€/$3.64; Exchange rates as of July 2018)
There are two possibilities here (Start at Kyoto Station (京都駅)):
- Take the bus (バス) number 101 or 205 from Kyoto Station that gets you directly to Kinkakuji.
Takes about 40 minutes and costs 230 Yen (1,77€/$2.09).
- First, take the Karasuma Subway Line to Kitaoji Station for 15 minutes and 260 Yen (2€/$2.36). Then you can either ride the bus 101, 102, 204 or 205 for 10 minutes and 230 Yen (1,77€/$2.09) or take a taxi for the same amount of time but for around 1,000 Yen (7,70€/$9.09).
And that’s it about Kinkakuji! This is easily one of the first things you need to see when coming to Kyoto, I highly recommend it!
Take in the amazing atmosphere this Golden Pavilion has to offer, as it is the only one of its kind!
Be prepared for hefty tourist waves though, as it is really popular. Coming early in the morning, right after it opens, should help reducing the amount of people there.
Thank you very much for reading, I hope you found it useful!
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