Shimmering in gold above the pond that bared witness to the passing of time, Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion) stands in all its splendor. Nestled in the former Imperial Capital of Japan the Golden Pavilion is one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. Visitors come in thousands to behold the structure that reflects the elegance of ancient Japanese architecture.
The Golden Pavillion’s History
Originally a villa belonging to a statesman named Saionji Kitsune, it was later remodeled by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu after it was bought in 1397.
The Kinkakuji-complex was later converted as a zen temple after Yoshimitsu’s death by his son according to his dying will. The pavilion and the surrounding complex was burned down twice in the past.
First during the Onin Wars (1467-1477), on which the other buildings except for Kinkakuji was burned down. The second time, the pavilion itself was deliberately set on fire by a monk named Hayashi Yoken on July 2, 1950. Restoration of the pavilion started on 1955 and the golden coating was completed in 1987.
Why is it covered in Gold?
As a Zen Temple, one of the purpose of Kinkakuji was to clear the body and mind of negative thoughts. Gold was believed to have the power to purify and clear away any negativity towards death.
Of course, that’s not only the reason why. During the Muromachi period visual aesthetic was important. To this day, the light that reflects from the pavilion into the pond shows an uncanny golden majesty that is unique to Kinkakuji.
The Golden Pavilion has three floors. The first floor (The Chamber of Dharma Waters) which is influenced by the Shinden Zukuri style, houses the Shaka Buddah and Yoshimitsu statues. It is a style that originated during the Heian Period.
The second floor (The Tower of Sound Waves), is designed in Buke Zukuri or most commonly referred to as the “Samurai Style”. The most notable feature of this floor is the Buddha hall where a shrine is dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy “Kannon”.
The third floor (Cupola of the Ultimate) is built in the style of Zenshu Butsuden Zukuri. Here, the ambiance of religion is heavily emphasized. Take note that visitors are not allowed to enter the interior of the pavilion.
Best Time to Visit Kinkakuji
To experience Kinkakuji to the fullest, it is advisable to visit it as the season changes. During Summer the vivid green becomes the perfect background for the golden reflection of the Pavilion. When Autumn comes, the garden is covered in red and yellow as if to further enhance the image that ripples on the ponds surface.
In winter, the pavilion is coated by pristine white snow. This only lasts for a few days, a moment that you would not want to miss.
Kinkakuji is open daily to the public from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. The admission fee is ¥ 400 and can be reached by riding a bus. All you need to do is go to the Kyoto Station and find City Bus No. 101 or No. 205. The fee for the bus ride is ¥260 and it will take approximately 40 minutes, before it arrives at the Kinkakuji Michi Bus Stop.