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Golden Pavilion (Kyoto, Japan)

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One of the oldest surviving wooden buildings in the world, The Golden Pavilion is located in the northern hills of Kyoto. The Yoshimitsu, the third Ashikaga shogun, constructed the pavilion in 1398 as part of a much larger villa complex that combined Heia

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    2 Reviews
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    • More +
      13.09.2013 22:45
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      A beautiful building which fully deserves its famous reputation. Wholly recommended!

      Even those who are only vaguely familiar with Japan may have heard about this building, or even seen it on television or in photos. The Golden Pavillion, known as Kinkakuji Temple in Japan, was originally built in the 14th century, although the current building is a reconstruction created in the 1950s. As with most of Kyoto's attractions it has since become a World Heritage site and an icon synonymous with the city. It has such a reputation that it inspired the building of the "Silver Pavilion" (Ginkakuji) by the owner's grandson, although that building isn't made of silver.

      Why is the Golden Pavilion so special? Well, the answer is in its name- the temple's top two floors are covered in gold, as a symbol of affluence for the period Kinkakuji was originally built in.


      ==---Location---==


      The Golden Pavilion is located in Northern Kyoto and is best accessed via bus. We caught the 101 bus directly from Kyoto Station for a 40 minute journey; as with other bus journeys a one-way ticket is ¥220 and a day pass is ¥500. Alternatively, you can catch the Karasuma subway to Kitaoji station, which takes 15 minutes and costs ¥250 yen, but then you would still need to take either a taxi or a bus to the temple entrance, so I'd recommend just sticking with the bus direct from Kyoto Station.


      ==---The Temple Itself---==


      First things first, you cannot actually enter the Golden Pavilion. You do pass by it- enough to see the interior somewhat- but obviously it's a sacred temple and priests still practise there. Furthermore, the most impressive part of the Golden Pavilion is the golden walls, right?

      Admission is ¥400 (about £2.50 by today's exchange rate) for everyone. You follow a straightforward path from the entrance and pass by a large pond, across from which the Golden Pavilion is located. In my opinion, I feel that the best pictures of the Golden Pavilion are those taken from this distance; the temple is surrounded by both the water and several trees so it looks very impressive. I had been warned in my travel guide to wear sunglasses when looking at the Golden Pavilion when it was sunny, because the sun reflected off the golden walls, but I found that I could directly at it and take pictures with no problem (or maybe it was because I wear regular glasses).

      We followed the path round and crossed a bridge to get very close to the Golden Pavilion. At this point I saw how the top two golden floors greatly contrast the normal ground floor. Apparently each floor is based on a different period of Japanese architecture, although to myself I couldn't see much of a difference.


      ==---Moving On---==


      After passing close by the temple, the path carries on through the temple gardens. There are other points of interest along the rest of the way. First of all is the temple well which, despite being nearly dried up, has some historical significance. Past the well were some stone statues where people can throw coins into for luck. This gave us ample opportunity to get rid of our ¥1 coins (literally the most useless coins in Japan!), and I'm pleased to say that I got two coins in!

      Towards the end of the path is the Tea Garden, which is basically a place to sit down and have a break, and Fudo Hall, a minor temple hall which houses some Buddhist statues. Fudo Hall also has some fortune-telling machines outside, where you could put money into a machine and it would print out a fortune on paper for you. I tried it out and thankfully my fortune was predicted as 'Excellent'. Having just thrown two coins into the statues near the well, I was inclined to agree!

      There is a little souvenir stand towards the exit selling temple charms and Golden Pavilion-themed gifts at decent prices.


      ==---Overall---==


      The Golden Pavilion is brilliant. I'll admit that reading about it on paper didn't make it sound too impressive, but seeing the building before my eyes and in its beautiful surroundings made me appreciate it a lot. You should definitely take the opportunity to see the Golden Pavilion for yourself if you are ever in Kyoto, because it is truly a sight to behold!


      ==---Further Information---==


      Admission: ¥400
      Opening Times: 9am - 5pm (no closing days)

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      • More +
        24.11.2006 18:18
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        If you are in Japan this is a MUST to see.

        KINKAKUJI TEMPLE

        If you are visiting Kyoto you must visit this magnificent temple, it is simply breathtaking! Set in the northern hills of Kyoto this temple was once part of a larger complex.

        There are regular bus services from the centre of Kyoto to the temple entrance and from there you walk along a tree lined walkway, the trees almost manicured in appearance, they are so neatly trimmed. Buses go from outside Kyoto station or you can take the train for the short trip, or even take a taxi. Of course there are organised tours you can take too, but I prefer to wander around these places at my leisure and not be herded along with a crowd. That way you can take as much time as you want to look at things and not have to listen to some tour guide giving a boring commentary.

        After passing through the entrance gate, you walk past a high bamboo fence lining the walkway, and then suddenly you see this magnificent building, the Golden Temple (or Pavilion as it is sometimes known). Surrounded by a lake its reflection shimmers in the clear water and as you walk around the lakeside paths you see the temple from different angles. I have seen some beautiful sights in my travels, but must confess this has to be one of my favourites.

        Set in the northern hills of Kyoto this temple was once part of a larger complex of villas. The Temple site dates back to the 14th century when it was built as a pavilion for the shogun Ashigaka Yoshimitsu for his retirement. It is three storeys high and in the style of traditional Japanese buildings, with the pagoda style roofs on the two top storeys. The exterior of the temple is covered in gold leaf and on the day I visited it was glorious sunshine so the shimmery effect was stunning. However, I am told that even on a dull day the gold is still a stunning sight.

        The temple was built to show the harmony between Heaven and Earth, and it certainly gives a peaceful impression of a tranquil place. The only sounds to be heard were the birds singing in the trees and the rustling of the pines. Although there were a lot of visitors around, even their chattering did not disturb the peaceful atmosphere. An ideal place to relax if you have spent a hectic schedule travelling or shopping!

        On top of the roof is a bronze statue of a phoenix – a significant reminder of its past. After the death of the shogun his son respected his father’s wishes and turned the pavilion into a Zen temple and for centuries it was a place of worship, known as the Rokuonji. However in the 1950’s a slightly mad temple priest set fire to the building and it had to be rebuilt. An exact replica was erected several years later so what you see today is not the original one. Further restoration was done in the 1990’s and it is truly magnificent.

        If you want to know more about the monk and his dreadful deed, a book The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima tells the dramatic story of his arson attack.

        It is possible to go inside the temple, but do check on opening times if you really want to do this. Each floor is in a different style, the first floor The Chamber of Dharma Waters is often described as the Shinden style, it is really only a large room surrounded by an open terrace but worth visiting.

        The second storey is larger and this is called The Tower of Sound Waves and is in the style of a Samurai house.

        The third storey is Zen style. All these different styles of architecture are an amazing example of the craftsmanship which has gone into the building of the temple.

        Buddhist artwork is on display throughout the temple and it is a very inspirational experience to wander around looking at this.

        Personally I preferred the outside of the building and the gardens, but I am glad to have had an opportunity to see the interior.
        After you have been inside the temple then spend time wandering through the grounds, here you will see large turtles gently moving out of the water and basking on the banks of the lakeside, hear the birds singing and maybe even see one or two cranes standing serene on one of the islands in the lake.
        The pathway as you enter the grounds takes you around the main lake and winds past the temple into the gardens. A lotus pond is here and you can see the lotus flowers in all their beauty. This in itself is a beautiful sight.
        Walking round here on a hot day is tiring and thirsty so you will be glad to know there is a teahouse set in the grounds, this is a thatched building and you can have a cool drink or a cup of traditional green tea, which is very refreshing, although I have to admit it is something of an acquired taste.
        The walk through the grounds takes you through groves of pine trees and you will see some magnificent shaped trees, like large bonsai. It is welcoming to walk around the shady pathways if it is a hot day, but do wear comfy footwear.
        A gift shop is also on site and there are some very good quality souvenirs on sale here, not the usual “tourist tack”.
        The grounds are quite hilly in places and there are steps so is not ideal for disabled or wheelchair visitors perhaps. However, the pathway around the temple itself is fairly level and easily accessible.
        I am not sure of current charges as it was some months since I was there, but you can check these at the tourist information office in Kyoto or look on the website.
        For me the highlight of this visit was gazing in wonderment at the reflection of this elegant building reflected in the water. In fact, I took a photo of the reflection itself and it is hard to distinguish which is the real temple and which is the reflection. Do visit if you are in Japan!



        NOTE: This review also appears under my ID on another site.

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        One of the oldest surviving wooden buildings in the world, The Golden Pavilion is located in the northern hills of Kyoto.