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Golden Pavilion Temple in Kyoto Is out of This World -
Find out Why!
If you think that Golden Pavilion Temple in Kyoto is overrated, get ready to be proven wrong!
It is a sight out of this world!
A temple covered in gold with a golden phoenix that stands on top its roof is definitely a magnificent sight. And, when the sun hits it, you really will be in awe.
Golden Pavilion Temple – Kinkaku-ji
Eight Quick Facts
The Golden Pavilion Temple in Kyoto, or Kinkaku-ji in Japanese, formally named Rokuon-ji, is a Zen Buddhist temple.
During the Muromachi period (1397-1441) the villa was the center of what is known as Kitayama Culture.
Yoshimitsu encouraged the development of the arts, notably nou drama, which originated in China. Yoshimitsu amassed a collection of the Chinese paintings overseen by the Ami, Geiami, and Souami families.
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In 1408 the site became a temple for the Zen sect of Buddhism.
In 1950 the Golden Pavilion was burned down by a 22 year old novice monk, Hayashi Yoken.
Hayashi Yoken then attempted suicide on the Daimon-ji hill behind the building. He survived and was taken into custody and sentenced to seven years in prison. Hayashi Yoken was released in 1955 due to the mental illness. He died of tuberculosis shortly after in 1956.
The present building is a replica completed in 1955 and outfitted with a sophisticated fire safety system, which pumps water from the pond and douses the temple with a high-powered spray.
Occasionally fire drills involving 60 firefighters, two helicopters and seven fire trucks are held.
The Golden Pavilion Temple in Kyoto was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994. It is one of the 14 sites that Kyoto has to offer!
Golden Pavilion Temple in Kyoto –
The pavilion has three floors, each with its very own architectural style.
The First Floor of the Golden Pavilion Temple in Kyoto –
The Chamber of Dharma Waters
The first floor, the Chamber of Dharma Waters, follows the Shinden style, a popular style for the 11th-century Heian period mansions. It consists of a single room surrounded by a veranda.
The wooden shutters called Shitomido separate the inside of the room from the outside. The Shitomido in Kinkaku-ji only reach halfway to the ceiling which lets in natural light.
The Second Floor of the Golden Pavilion Temple in Kyoto –
The Tower of Sound Waves
The Tower of Sound Waves is the name of the second floor of Kinkaku-ji.
This floor is modeled after the Buke-zukuri style of samurai homes.
The style, called buke-zukuri, was simple and practical. The main building, with a single roof, usually had four rooms with tatami mats, with a porch (engawa) in the back leading to a small garden.
The exterior of the second floor is entirely covered in golden leaves. The second floor, also, houses an icon of the Bodhisattva Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy.
The Third Floor of the Golden Pavilion Temple in Kyoto –
The Cupola of the Ultimate
The third floor known as the Cupola of the Ultimate follows the Chinese Zen style and is also covered in gold leaves outside as well as inside.
There is a reliquary that holds some of the ashes of the Buddha.
The katomado, bell-shaped, windows let in natural light.
Phoenix at the Top of the Golden Pavilion – Kinkaku-ji Temple
At the very top of the Golden Pavilion sits the Phoenix.
In Japanese mythology since the mid-6th century, the Phoenix is called Hō-ō.
The Phoenix, or a sunbird brings goodwill as it descends from the heavens. It is, also, symbolic of an imperial household.
The Golden Pavilion Temple in Kyoto
Is It Real Gold?
Yes! It is real gold!
The second and third stories of Golden Pavilion have approximately 48 kilograms of gold!
All this gold is maintained by a single person, Takesato Yagyu.
Takesato Yagyu constantly cleans and dusts and spends countless hours re-applying the gold foil sheets on the areas that need re-touching. Needless to say, re-applying the gold foil sheets is a labor intensive job. The gold foil sheets are only 10.8 centimeters square and they are as thin as five 10,000th of a millimeter.
Now, the gold foil can easily wrinkle when applied. In addition, it can get scratched when cleaned or dusted.
Takesato Yagyu’s work can only be done when the weather conditions are just right!
Actually, there has to be no wind, no rain, no high humidity, no high temperatures, and the list goes on, for Yagyu to be able to start working on applying the gold sheets.
For example, high humidity causes the lacquer which is applied to the back of the gold sheets to dry too quickly. Or, if the temperatures are too high, then the lacquer becomes too soft and less sticky. Needless to say, Yagyu watches the weather reports very carefully.
When Yagyu is working, he wears long sleeve shirts to prevent sweat from damaging the foils. When he works on the ceiling, he holds his breath to minimize the gaps between sheets that breathing creates.
And finally, to keep the Golden Pavilion Temple in Kyoto bright and shiny, Yagyu polishes the gold foils with silk wipes.
Golden Pavilion Temple Garden
After you are done photographing the Golden Pavilion Temple, follow a one-way path that winds up through the garden and goes up the hill.
As you are making your way up, you will be able to view the Golden Pavilion from several different locations.
On the way up the hill you will pass by Anmin-take Pond, or Upper Pond. It is said that the water never dries up in this pond.
Next, you will pass by Sekkatei Teahouse which was built during the 17th century in honor of the visit of Emperor Go-Mizunoo. The modesty of this teahouse compared to the Golden Pavilion focuses the guest’s attention to the tea ceremony.
The Golden Pavilion is especially beautiful when seen from here in the late afternoon sun. This view is reflected in the teahouse name, Sekkatei (Place of Evening Beauty).
At the end of the path, you will get to Fudo Hall, a small Buddhist temple hall. Fudo Myo-o is one of Japan’s most important Buddhist deities.
Fudo Myo-o is one of the most important deities of Japanese Buddhism. He is the guardian of Buddhism and one of the Five Wisdom Kings along with Gōzanze, Gundari, Daiitoku and Kongōyasha. When the Five Wisdom Kings are represented together, he usually is in the middle.
How to Get to the Golden Pavilion from Kyoto Station
First of all, from Kyoto Station take city bus #205 (Bus Stop B-3), or city bus #101 (Bus Stop B-2) and get off at Kinkakuji-michi. The journey will take you about 30-40 minutes.
Next, follow the signs for Kinkakuji – Golden Pavilion Temple.
The cost of the bus ticket is 230 yen.
Opening Hours and Admission Cost
Golden Pavilion Temple and Garden are open daily opening from 9 am till 5 pm.
The entrance fee is 400 yen.
Map of the Golden Pavilion and the Garden
Following is the map of the area.
After you are done photographing the Golden Pavilion Temple, follow a one-way path through the gardens.
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A visit to the Golden Pavilion Temple can easily be combined with a tour of Arashiyama for a perfect day of exploring in Kyoto!
Make sure to read 14 Unmistakable Things to Do in Arashiyama, Kyoto.
Now, I want to hear back from you!
Are you planning a trip to Kyoto? Is the Golden Pavilion Temple on you list?
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Also, click on the image below to get inspired or get some ideas for places to visit in Kyoto and in other parts of Japan!