Kinkaku-Ji Temple (The Golden Pavilion)
1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 603-8361, JapanGetting there
Transportation: Take the Kyoto City Bus No.101, 102, 204 or 205 from Kyoto Station to the Kinkaku-ji Michi bus stop.
Take the Kyoto City Bus No.12, No.59 from another part of the city to the Kinkaku-ji Mae bus stop.
Parking Fee: 1,000 yen/hour (Bus), 500 yen/hour (Minicoach), 300 yen/hour,(Passenger car), 100 yen/hour (Motorcycle)
+81 75-461-0013More information Prices
Admission Fee: 400 yen (regular fee). Elementary and Junior High School Students: 300 yenOpening hours
9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Kinkakuji (金閣寺, Golden Pavilion) is a Zen temple in northern Kyoto whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. Formally known as Rokuonji, the temple was the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and according to his will it became a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect after his death in 1408. Kinkakuji was the inspiration for the similarly named Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion), built by Yoshimitsu's grandson, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, on the other side of the city a few decades later.
Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, is one the most iconic sights and popular attractions in Japan. It was built by the Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the third shogun of the Muromachi shogunate, in 1398. Always a vision, its magical beauty is particularly captivating when a blanket of pure white snow sets off its golden contours, making Kinkaku-ji a still bigger draw on snowy days.
Kinkakuji was built to echo the extravagant Kitayama culture that developed in the wealthy aristocratic circles of Kyoto during Yoshimitsu's times. Each floor represents a different style of architecture.
The first floor is built in the Shinden style used for palace buildings during the Heian Period, and with its natural wood pillars and white plaster walls contrasts yet complements the gilded upper stories of the pavilion. Statues of the Shaka Buddha (historical Buddha) and Yoshimitsu are stored in the first floor. Although it is not possible to enter the pavilion, the statues can be viewed from across the pond if you look closely, as the front windows of the first floor are usually kept open.
The second floor is built in the Bukke style used in samurai residences, and has its exterior completely covered in gold leaf. Inside is a seated Kannon Bodhisattva surrounded by statues of the Four Heavenly Kings; however, the statues are not shown to the public. Finally, the third and uppermost floor is built in the style of a Chinese Zen Hall, is gilded inside and out, and is capped with a golden phoenix.
After viewing Kinkakuji from across the pond, visitors pass by the head priest's former living quarters (hojo) which are known for their painted sliding doors (fusuma), but are not open to the public. The path once again passes by Kinkakuji from behind then leads through the temple's gardens which have retained their original design from Yoshimitsu's days. The gardens hold a few other spots of interest including Anmintaku Pond that is said to never dry up, and statues that people throw coins at for luck.
Continuing through the garden takes you to the Sekkatei Teahouse, added to Kinkakuji during the Edo Period, before you exit the paid temple area. Outside the exit are souvenir shops, a small tea garden where you can have matcha tea and sweets (500 yen) and Fudo Hall, a small temple hall which houses a statue of Fudo Myoo, one of the Five Wisdom Kings and protector of Buddhism. The statue is said to be carved by Kobo Daishi, one of the most important figures in Japanese religious history.
At the time Kinkaku-ji was built, the temple complex rivaled the sprawling Kyoto Imperial Palace Park (Kyoto Gosho), both in terms of the number of structures arrayed across the grounds, and as a political and administrative nerve center. However, the nature of Kinkaku-ji changed on the death of Yoshimitsu in 1408, when he willed the estate to Zen Buddhists, to be converted to a Zen temple. Except for the Shariden, the Golden Pavilion where relics of the Buddha are enshrined, the buildings were all donated to the Nanzen-ji and Kennin-ji temple sites. Nearly a century later, in 1498, the eighth shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, commissioned the construction of Ginkaku-ji – the Temple of the Silver Pavilion – on a design that emulated Golden Pavilion at Kinkaku-ji. Each temple is considered a definitive representation of Muromachi Period architecture.
Although Kinkaku-ji was designated a national treasure in 1929, its time in the incarnation for which it was honored proved fleeting: a novice monk torched the structure in 1950. That event, in turn, was fictionalized by Yukio Mishima in his signature masterpiece of contemporary Japanese literature, The Temple of The Golden Pavilion.
Fortunately, it turned out that a team of engineers who had partially dismantled Kinkaku-ji for repair purposes in the Meiji Era had also created detailed structural drawings. With the support of the Japanese government and contributions from local commerce and industry groups, the temple was restored in 1955, based on the Meiji Era drawings. Prior to its destruction in the fire, most of the temple’s original gold leaf coating had worn away. However, research conducted on Kinkaku-ji’s structural elements in the aftermath of the arson demonstrated that when it was built, gold leaf had covered the entire exterior, and this was reflected in the rebuilding. Thus, Kinkaku-ji as it appears today is a faithful restoration of the 500 year-old original design.
Kinkaku-ji was recognized by UNESCO as a World (Cultural) Heritage site in 1994.
Kinkakuji is an impressive structure built overlooking a large pond, and is the only building left of Yoshimitsu's former retirement complex. It has burned down numerous times throughout its history including twice during the Onin War, a civil war that destroyed much of Kyoto; and once again more recently in 1950 when it was set on fire by a fanatic monk. The present structure was rebuilt in 1955.
Kinkaku-ji is one of Kyoto's leading temples. Its formal name is Rokuon-ji. It was built at the end of the 14th century originally as a villa for Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the shogun at the time. After Yoshimitsu's death, as indicated in his will, the building was converted into a temple of the Zen sect of Buddhism, which is famous for the practice of zazen, or religious meditation (a major method of Buddhist training, and method of meditation for establishing one's foundation in Zen Buddhism). The shining Kinkaku ("Golden Pavilion") is a symbol of Kyoto. This temple has been burnt down many times in the flames of war and other conflagrations, and more recently by arson, which incident has been made famous by Yukio Mishima's novel, Kinkakuji (The Temple of the Golden Pavilion). However, it was restored in 1955, with major improvement work being done on it in 1987, so that all of the gold leaf has been replaced. Recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage, Kinkaku-ji is one of the historical buildings most representative of Japan.
The garden is designed to provide a view of different scenes while walking around a large pond called Kyoko-chi in its center, and accounts for about 93,000 of the 132,000 square meter temple grounds. The Kyoko-chi Pond alone takes up 60,600 square meters and includes islands of various sizes such as Naka-jima and Iwa-jima. There are also rocks and stones of unusual shapes. These islands have different shapes depending on the angle from which they are seen. The scene viewed from the Sekka-tei Cottage at the back of the hill is particularly impressive. The reflection of the golden pavilion on the water is also striking.
Get There and Around
Kinkakuji can be accessed from Kyoto Station by direct Kyoto City Bus number 101 or 205 in about 40 minutes and for 230 yen. Alternatively, it can be faster and more reliable to take the Karasuma Subway Line to Kitaoji Station (15 minutes, 260 yen) and take a taxi (10 minutes, 1000-1200 yen) or bus (10 minutes, 230 yen, bus numbers 101, 102, 204 or 205) from there to Kinkakuji.
Reviews by visitors
Yes, the building is spectacular with its gold leaf, but that's it. There is little else. The gardens are OK. Try to visit early, the crowds are big during the day all jostling to take a selfie. Bus loads! You cannot get close to the building and there is no walk around the lake. ~Greg H
We went early at 9 am & it was crowded with tourists. Loved the scenery, lotus blooming in the pond, golden temple, phoenix on top. Worth a visit. ~fitnesswla
This shrine was different. The gold covering really stood out to the rest. Make sure to visit on a sunny day so you can really see it shine. ~Allen C
Not the original building, but rebuilt to its former glory. Amazing gardens, walk is reasonable with mostly level terrain (travelled with my 75 year-old father in law). Reasonable entrance fee, English literature. ~sweetseraphim
The golden palace is truly stunning. The setting is so serene, which is incredible when you have so many people beside you! We were ushered in with huge crowds of people and shuffled along a path to the best viewing spots.the gardens are beautiful too. There is an ice cream/ drinks rest area. To the north of Kyoto city, but easy to get to on the bus. ~coolum_65
setting, with big garden. As soon as you have the temple in view is like you're watching a postcard of some sorts. Lots of tourists around, late hours might be better for visiting. ~Aerandria
Worth a visit but very crowded. As you cannot go very close to the temple the man attraction is the garden and lake setting for the gold building and the path through the gardens. Downside apart from the crowd is the crass commercialism of stalls you are forced to walk through and the frustration of not walking around the lake. Easy access by bus from the station. ~coffeekiwi
The temple is beautiful but it was a pretty underwhelming experience. We arrived 30 minutes before opening to maybe miss the crowd, but no chance of that happening. Initially there were maybe 10 people ahead of us, but 2 minutes later throngs of tourist bus rocked up. After you pay the entrance fee which is pretty steep for such a small area the jostling with others to take pictures start. And as many others have indicated, it is pretty much a one way street. Do capture a picture at the start, as there aren't any better views after that. Once you've circled the temple / lake, you're pretty much at the exit. ~tek_m_l
Its amazing and you will love every single of it. Unique experience and its good to know more about the japanese culture. ~MishaBun
As this place isn't opened 24h unfortunately one has to put up with HORDES of tourists taking selfies....I'm not sure I really enjoyed the experience. Was VERY happy to get out! ~anneEstepona
Also known the Golden Pavillon or Kinkakuji, this is one of the must-sees in Kyoto. Just be prepared for the hordes of people and if possible, avoid peak times like weekends, public holidays and the cherry blossom season. It is stunning regardless of the weather and season, and glows ethereally, even on a cloudy day. Tourists aren't allowed to enter it, but you do get quite a good close-up view from the garden path that winds it way around it. Have patience, and it is possible to get fantastic photos without being obstructed by other tourists. ~PamNord
This is a must see if you are visiting Kyoto. Pretty anytime of year and if you are lucky you will get a reflection in the lake. It's a very popular attraction and was full of school groups. Although they were very well behaved and were busy fill out there work books. ~nomad55_8
Because of its history and special golden colour this temple has become a must see, even though what we see is actually a replica built in the XXth century.
If this is the first temple you see, you'll certainly be impressed. In itself it is beautiful and the gardens are very pleasant. They're very accessible too with few steps which is worth noticing for people with mobility issues as this is quite rare.
However, we were very disappointed by our visit and might not have gone had we known what was in store. We've been in Japan for ten days and have since several temples and shrines by now. We always expect to spend between one and two hours in each of them, visiting each corner and soaking up the atmosphere.
Here, you arrive among hords of tourists and school kids. Staff makes sure you keep moving, leading you like sheeps in a packed crowd around the pond and the gardens. You have to fight to find a tiny spot to take a picture before someone walks on top of you. I struggled to find two minutes to stop and read the information sheet and no need to mention there was no atmosphere to soak up. All in all, we were in and out within 25minutes at our greatest dismay. Once you reach the end of the circuit you can't go back to see the pavilion again. We were puzzled.
You can't visit the pavilion itself and the grounds are small. Yes it is a beautiful temple but there are hundreds of them in Japan. This one would be valuable for the atmosphere on its grounds but seeing how they've destroyed that I don't really see the point of visiting it in these conditions.
Maybe if they instored a timed entrance ticket system? I'm sure many people would complain and it would of course make it more complicated for foreigners but it might preserve a bit more of the experience...
Going there is easy: there are four buses leaving from Kitaoji station pretty regularly, taking 10min to the foot of the temple (follow the hords of people across the street): 101,102,204,205. You pay when you get off the bus and can use the same pass as for the tube.
In the current conditions I would say you'd better leave it and focus on something else unless ticking items off the bucket list is what matters most.
The temple itself is very beautiful and worth seeing. The downside is that pathways are marked and you have to stay on these marked paths. It takes less than 30 minutes to walk the whole path from start to finish. Biggest disappointment was that you cannot enter temple inside. Also tripods and drones are not allowed so if you planning to vlog / have professional gear with you, forget it. Lot of tourists also so be prepared to wait for your turn if you want to have a selfie in front of the temple. ~Ali P
We visited the Golden Pavilion as it is high on most people's tour list but rather than wandering the grounds and discovering the temple it is the first thing you encounter. Cue hordes of people taking selfies, and you need to work a bit to get a spot to take the iconic picture across the lake. The remainder of the grounds are pretty but there is only one path around the whole site and you are effectively in a production line: photo the temple, throw coins at the rocks, buy some souvenirs, then get out.
There is no where to stop and enjoy the moment, no where to sit and relax, no where to get away from the crowds. You just have to go along with everyone else and then you're done and out of the exit. We had hoped for more of an experience.
See it by all means as it is a beautiful building but don't expect a leisurely or quiet wander around as you can at some of Kyoto's other temples and shrines.
Be aware that there are many many tourists that pass through here, so if you are a looking for calm then this isn't a place to find it. The temple itself is beautiful and it's gold! The gardens were lovely to walk around too. ~Jo S
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