Kinkakuji: Kyoto’s Golden Zen

When you catch the first glimpse of its golden walls through the leaves across the lake, Kinkakuji draws you in.

Kinkakuji, the Golden Zen Temple in Kyoto

The scene of the unique gold leaf covered Zen Buddhist temple from across the lake is one of Kyoto’s most iconic sceneries. Some people who admire the pavilion from various angles and heights can’t help but notice that the temple is smaller than what they initially imagined. Kinkakuji (金閣寺), also known as Rokuonji (鹿苑寺), in fact used to be part of a residential complex for the retired shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu whose last wish was for it to be converted to a Zen temple. Although it had been destroyed by fires and natural disasters several times, it is the only building within the complex that was rebuilt repeatedly.

Kinkakuji, the Golden Zen Temple in Kyoto

Its nickname is of course derived from its gold leaf covered exterior. The use of gold leaf for buildings is very rare in Japan yet the Japanese associate gold with undoing oneself of any negative thoughts making it very appropriate for Kinkakuji’s purpose. Architecturally the temple has been designed with great care as each of its floor has a different architectural style but as a whole you would most likely not notice this. The first floor is build according to the architecture of the Heian period (11th century), the second floor resembles that of a samurai residence while the third floor draws inspiration from Zen halls in China.

As you wander through its gardens you can enjoy the temple from various heights and angles. Each of these offers you unique insights of Kinkakuji’s delicate details. For many visitors the view from across Kinkakuji’s lake with the temple’s reflection in the water surrounding it remains their absolute favourite.



Name: Kinkakuji (also known as Rokuonji)
Address: 1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 603-8361
Opening hours: 09:00–17:00
Admission Fee: 400 yen for general public
300 yen for Elementary and Junior High School Students

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