Kinkakuji Temple

UNESCO World Heritage Site in Kyoto

Kinkakuji temple is one of the most visited attractions of Kyoto. Literally meaning ‘Temple of the Golden Pavilion,’ this is an astounding Zen Buddhist shrine that has been declared a World Heritage site by the UNESCO.

Its remarkable architecture style complemented with awe-inspiring surroundings consisting of an amazing lake and an authentic Japanese style garden make it a must-visit tourist place in the country.

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History of Kinkakuji Temple

Located in the serene area of Kinkakuji-chô in the north-east part of Kyoto, Kinkakuji Temple was originally built as Kitayama-dai in 1393 by Saionji Kintsune – a powerful aristocrat of the time. In 1397, it was taken over by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu – the Muromachi Government’s third shogun - to name it Kitayamadono and make it his retirement villa. After the death of Yoshimitsu, his son converted the villa into a Zen shrine, as per the will of his father. It was then known as Rokuonji Temple. However, the temple was badly destroyed during the Onin War in the 15th century.

Even though it was restored, the shrine was again destroyed by a young fanatic monk, Hayashi Yoken in 1950. He was then sentenced for seven years imprisonment but released in 1955 when he was found a victim of condition, namely, schizophrenia. Soon after a year, the monk passed away as a result of tuberculosis. A fictionalized version of this event has been found mentioned in the book, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, penned by Yukio Mishima. The present temple was erected in 1955 and is the exact replica of the original one however with the exception that the upper stories are coated with golden leaf, according to the wishes of Yoshimitsu Ashikaga. Again in 1987, the golden coating was made thicker, in addition to enhancing the interiors as well as restoring the statue of Yoshimitsu.

Highlights and Features of Kinkakuji Temple

With a height of more than 40 feet, Kinkakuji temple complex’s major draw is the Golden Pavilion that stands quaintly at the edge of the mesmerizing Mirror Lake filled with lotus flowers. Its layout represents the Heian period’s typical Shinden style and the locale implies a spot that is amid the heaven and the earth. The wooden Golden Pavilion consists of three stories, of which the upper two storeys are completely coated with gleaming golden leaf. Further, each of them has its own specialties and comes with unique architecture style.

Constructed in traditional Japanese palace style design, the first storey - also referred to as Hôsuiin or the Chamber of Dharma waters – is complete with an expansive room and a veranda. This area was used as a reception hall when the Shogun resided here. On the second storey is Chôondô or the Hall of Roaring Waves that has been erected in the Buke-zukuri style. It was primarily used to hold important meetings with dignitaries and now enshrines an image of Kannon. Speaking of the third storey, it is called Kukkyôchô. With a firmament top and round headed windows, it is richly decorated and takes after the architecture style of Chinese Zen shrines. The Shogun used it as the venue to conduct tea ceremonies as well as informal meetings. Presently, it contains an Amida triad, along with 25 Bodhisattvas. Above all, there is a golden statue of Chinese phoenix atop the roof.

Equally worth mentioning is the astounding surroundings of the temple. One of the dramatic sights of the temple complex is the reflection of the shimmering Golden Pavilion in the calm waters. During your visit to the temple, be sure to take a walk along its mind blowing grounds complete with a spectacular Japanese style garden, waterfalls, natural springs and stones that depict Buddhism. Further, the Golden Pavilion offers breathtaking views of the surroundings. A temple dedicated to Fudo Myo-o – the Lord of Fire and Wisdom – is also within the temple grounds.

Kinkakuji Temple

  • Opening Hours: daily from 09:00 to 17:00
  • Address: 1 Kinkaku-ji-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto, Japan
  • Tel: 075 461 0013
  • How to get there: Kinkakuji Temple is easily accessible from Kyoto Station via Kyoto City Bus numbers: 101 and 205. You can also opt for choices such as Karasuma Subway Line or a taxi to reach the temple.
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