With well over 1000 temples in Kyoto alone, it can be difficult to know just where to begin. One temple that visitors always seem to hear about (and with good reason) is Kinkaku-Ji temple. Steeped in stunning Buddhist architecture, Kyoto is ideal for those looking to get away from it all and embark on a few days of temple hopping.
Rich in ancient Japanese traditions, this former capital city offers unique cultural experiences and scenic walks. Also known as the Golden Pavilion, this spellbinding structure sets itself apart from other Buddhist monuments. With a dazzling gold leaf décor and a backdrop of lush green forest, not to mention stunning Japanese gardens, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a fantastic way to begin any trip to Kyoto.
History of Kinkaku-Ji
Although it looks very new, the pavilion actually dates back to the 14th Century. During this time Kyoto was the capital city of Japan and was ruled by shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. Towards the end of the century, the pagoda was built as a villa for the shogun. After his death, this villa became a Buddhist temple and was used to practice Zen meditation.
The current pavilion was reconstructed in 1955 after a number of fires. Each tier of the structure takes influence from a different time period. The first tier is white and is designed in the regal style of the Heian period which was between the years 794 and 1185, whilst the second and third levels are decorated in gold leaf. The second floor is reminiscent of samurai residences whilst the top tier is a Chinese Zen hall. Each level can be distinctly identified and represents a significant time in Japanese history.
Nestled beside a large pond, Kinkaku-ji is a stunning site that should not be missed. On a summer’s day, the temple reflects beautifully into the water offering a distinct romantic ambience. During early April, visitors can also take in views of the Golden Pavillion amongst a plethora of cherry blossom.
Alongside the pavilion itself are the former living quarters of the head priest and charming gardens. Fudo Hall is a small Buddhist structure that is home to a statue of one of the Five Wisdom Kings who are the five masters of Buddhism. This structure is worshipped by visitors so expect a queue.
Although visitors cannot enter the Golden Pavilion, the statues of the Shaka Buddha and shogun Yoshimitsu are located on the first floor are visible from the viewing point when the windows are open.
Within the grounds, guests will also find a charming tea garden where you can take a moment to rest with a cup of fresh Matcha tea accompanied by a traditional sweet treat. Around this area, visitors can also reach other famous sites including Ryoanji Temple and Toji-in Temple.
How to get to Kinkaku-Ji
Kinkaku-ji is situated just 30 minutes away from Kyoto Station. The bus station is located just outside Kyoto train station. You can reach the pavilion by bus from Kyoto Bus Station. Bus numbers 101 and 205 stop directly outside the entrance. The nearest train station is Kitanohakubaicho. If you’re not comfortable navigating public transport in a foreign country, join our historical cycling tour of the area and be accompanied by an expert guide.
Entrance Times & Admissions
Monday – Sunday: 9:00 to 17:00 every day
Adults: 400 Yen (ca. 4 USD) for adults.
Children: 300 Yen (ca. 3 USD).