In Kyoto, there are many beautiful places to visit. Almost too many for the history and religion buffs to do in a single go, to be honest. One of the most splendid sites to partake in on a clear, sunny day has to be Kinkakuji, a pavilion of gold on a still lake.
A Brief History of Kinkakuji (金閣寺)
The temple itself can be dated back to its original grounds, in the way-back times of the 1300s. It rests on the banks of the Mirror Pond, or Kyokochi. It was originally built as the final residence of retiring Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. Upon his death in the early dawn of the 1400s, the building was converted into a Zen temple. It actually has a different name the Buddhists go by, which is Rukuonji (鹿苑寺), or the Deer Garden Temple. The gold leafing has always been a part of the temple, although during times of austerity, the building went without its usual lustre and the gold chipped away.
The next big milestone wasn’t until 1950, when a young monk, suffering from mental illness, burned the temple down. It was rebuilt in 1955 and holds many Buddhist relics on the top floor of the temple. While normal visitors cannot enter, there are still some nice sights around the temple gardens you can take part in, such as an active tea house, souvenir shop, and many smaller areas where you can test your skill at throwing coins for good luck.
The temple is a very popular tourist site, with thousands of visitors heading the temple regularly. If you do go, make sure you arrive early and be courteous about photography; everyone is trying to get their picture, so make sure you are ready to go and you don’t take too long. It’s all very orderly there and everyone is on good behavior so you may wait a little while, but you will get your chance. There are many spots where you can get some excellent shots, so don’t feel discouraged if one area is packed. People usually crowd the front area where the picture below was taken, but if you walk one minute up the garden path, you can get very close for some lovely pictures as well.
If you can get there on a clear, sunny day, all the better! Seeing it sparkle in the sunlight is really something. It’s a wonderful site to see and worth the small admission fee (400 yen) to get inside.