Kinkakuji: Make the Golden Pavilion Your Next Destination

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  • Kinkakuji (金閣寺) which can be translated as “Temple of Golden Pavilion”, is a Zen temple located in northern Kyoto, Japan. It is also formally known as Rokuonji (鹿苑寺). The temple was originally a villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. After his death in 1408, it was converted into a Zen temple by his son, according to his wishes. Yoshimitsu’s grandson, Ashikaga Yoshimasa used Kinkakuji as the inspiration to build Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion Temple). Kinkakuji is a National Special Historic Site and is one of the 17 locations in the UNESCO World Heritage Site compilation of Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto.

    kinkakuji intro

    History

    kinkakuji hojo

    During the Onin War(1467-1477), the pavilion was burned down several times. However in 1950, it was burnt down by a monk who was later discovered to be suffering from mental illness. A fictionalized version of the events is portrayed in “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion”, written by Yukio Mishima in 1956. The structure of the pavilion which can be seen now was rebuilt from 1955. The restored version was true to the original and in 1987, its gold leaf coating was added once again.

    Design

    kinkakuji design

    The golden pavilion is a three-story high building, approximately 12.5 meters in height located at the edge of a lake. Each floor uses a different style of architectural design; with the upper two completely plated in gold leaf.

    The first floor of the pavilion is known as the Hosuiin (Temple of Dharma Water), which is built according to shinden style in connection with 11th-century Heian nobility. It is made of natural, unpainted wood and white plaster and is designed as an open air space, allowing light and fresh air into the room.

    The second floor, called Choondo (Tower of Sound Waves) is built in buke style of the houses of samurai aristocrats. Its exterior is fully coated with gold leaf. Inside, it contains a Buddha Hall which houses a statue of Kannon.

    The third floor, which is also the uppermost floor, named Kukkyocho, is built in the style of a traditional Chinese Buddha hall. The hall is gilded inside and out. This floor houses an Amida triad and 25 Bodhisattvas. Finally, a golden Chinese phoenix is seen on the roof.

    kinkakuji phoenix

    What to Visit

    kinkakuji furo hall

    As Kinkakuji is not open to the public, visitors can only see it across the pond. The pavilion is beautifully reflected in the calm waters of the lake as if you are viewing a famous painting.

    Nearby the pavilion there is the Hojo, or former living quarters of head priest. There is also a must-visit pavilion garden with designs which are adapted from the Muromachi period. The garden has a few interesting places, including Anmintaku Pond that is said to never dry up; statues that people throw coins at for luck and many more.

    kinkakuji coin toss statues

    There is also a tea house called Sekkatei Teahouse built during the Edo Period. At the exit, there is Furo Hall, a small temple housing a statue of Fudo Myoo, one of the Five Wisdom Kings and protector of Buddhism. Visitors can pray here. There are also souvenir, food, and beverage shops located at the exit of the site.

    kinkakuji tea house

    If you are planning to visit Kyoto, Kinkakuji is a must-see place to add to your list. Its beauty is breathtaking and can only truly be experienced when you see it for yourself! Remember the Golden Pavilion for your next holiday trip!

    Access

    From Kyoto Station, take a taxi or bus (number 101 or 205) to Kinkakuji.
    From Kitaoji Station, take a taxi or bus (number 101, 102, 204 and 205) to Kinkakuji.

    Kinkakuji on the Japan National Tourism Organization website

    Operating hours and fees:
    Hours: 9:00 to 17:00
    Closed: No closing days unless further notice is given
    Fees: 400 yen

    Address and contact details:
    EN: 〒603-8231, Kyoto-Shi, Kita-Ku, Kinkaku-ji-Chō 1
    JP: 〒603-8361, 京都府京都市 北区 金閣寺町1
    Tel: 075-461-0013

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