takagamine & murasakino area

Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji)

A must-visit exemplary temple for those traveling to Kyoto

Kyoto, the cultural capital of japan, is known for its rich history and beautiful temples. Among the many temples in Kyoto, one stands out as a must-visit destination for travelers—the Rokuonji Temple, more commonly known as Kinkakuji Temple. This renowned Zen Buddhist temple is famous for its Golden Pavilion, a three-tiered structure covered in gold leaf. With centuries of history and a stunning architectural design, Kinkakuji Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a symbol of Kyoto’s cultural heritage.

Originally designated as a holiday villa for the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in 1397, Kinkakuji Temple’s temple grounds span an impressive 132,000 square meters. The temple’s main attraction, the Golden Pavilion, is a visual masterpiece. The second and third stories of the pavilion are covered in gold leaf, creating a dazzling and awe-inspiring sight. The intricate details and craftsmanship of the pavilion are a testament to the skill and artistry of the builders.

From Shogun’s holiday home to Zen temple

The history of Kinkakuji Temple is closely tied to the reign of the 14th century shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. He acquired the grounds that now make up the temple and built his vacation home, which he named Kitayamadono. However, following his passing, the grounds were repurposed into a Zen Buddhist temple according to his wishes. The Golden Pavilion was constructed to enshrine the Buddha, with an additional shrine on the second tier dedicated to Kannon, the goddess of mercy.

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Each tier of the pavilion is built according to unique architectural styles. The first tier follows the shinden-zukuri style, which was prevalent in the palatial homes of the aristocracy during the Heian period. The second tier is built in the buke-zukuri style, commonly used in the residences of high-ranking samurai warriors during the Kamakura period. The third tier reflects traditional Chinese Zen architecture. The thatched, pyramidal roofs of each tier are layered in shingles, and the topmost two tiers are covered in the gold leaf that gives Kinkakuji Temple its name.

A garden gateway into the Buddhist worldview

The temple grounds of Kinkakuji Temple are not only home to the Golden Pavilion but also feature a stunning garden that spans an area of 92,400 square meters. The centerpiece of the garden is Kyoko-chi Pond, also known as the “mirror pond.” The pond reflects the image of the Golden Pavilion, creating a serene and picturesque view. The pond is dotted with small islands of varying sizes, adding to the beauty and tranquility of the garden.

The garden of Kinkakuji Temple is registered as both a unique historic and scenic landmark. It showcases the principles of Japanese garden design, with carefully arranged rocks, mossy paths, and meticulously manicured trees and shrubs. Walking through the garden is like stepping into a different world, where nature and spirituality intertwine.

A designated World Heritage Site since 1994

Despite facing destruction in the past, Kinkakuji Temple has been faithfully restored to its former glory. The original structure of the Golden Pavilion was burned down in 1950, but it was reconstructed based on a detailed reconstruction initiative and reopened in 1955. This restoration effort showcased the dedication to preserving Kyoto’s cultural heritage.

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In recognition of its exceptional architecture and cultural significance, Kinkakuji Temple was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994. The temple serves as a testament to the harmonious blend of court noble, samurai, and Buddhist influences in Japanese culture.

Neighboring World Heritage temples to visit

Visitors to Kinkakuji Temple will find that there are other nearby World Heritage Sites worth exploring. Ginkakuji Temple, Ryoanji Temple, and Tenryuji Temple all offer unique insights into Japanese history and Buddhist traditions.

Ginkakuji Temple, also known as the Silver Pavilion, was originally built by Ashikaga Yoshimasa, the grandson of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. It later became a Rinzai Buddhist temple and is renowned for its beautiful gardens and architecture. The temple offers a stark contrast to Kinkakuji Temple, with its understated elegance and silver-colored exterior.

Ryoanji Temple is globally recognized for its famed stone garden. This unique landscape garden features 15 carefully arranged stones set in white sand. The simplicity and tranquility of the garden make it a popular destination for meditation and contemplation.

Tenryuji Temple, located in the scenic Arashiyama district, is one of the five most prestigious temples in Kyoto. It was designated as a World Heritage Site in the 14th century and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and bamboo groves. The temple’s main attraction is its beautiful garden, which showcases the principles of Zen Buddhism.

In conclusion, Kinkakuji Temple, with its Golden Pavilion and serene gardens, is a must-visit destination for travelers to Kyoto. The temple’s rich history, stunning architecture, and cultural significance make it a symbol of Kyoto’s cultural heritage. Whether you’re exploring the temple grounds, admiring the reflection of the Golden Pavilion on Kyoko-chi Pond, or immersing yourself in the peaceful atmosphere of the garden, a visit to Kinkakuji Temple is an unforgettable experience that encapsulates the beauty and spirituality of Kyoto.

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Address And Maps Location:

1 Kinkakujicho, Kita-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu


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