Kyoto’s Heavenly Golden Pavilion

The Golden Pavilion

The Japanese are experts at urban landscaping, and one of their most superb examples is Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion, also known as Kinkaku-ji, formally known as Rokuon-ji or “Deer Garden Temple”.

The Golden Pavilion was built in 1397 as a retirement villa for the ruling shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. After the shogun’s death in 1408, his son converted Kinkaku-ji into a Zen Buddhist Temple. Today, it’s famous for two reasons. It’s covered in gold leaf and it houses sacred relics of the Buddha.
Kinkaku-ji is encompassed by an impressive Japanese strolling garden (kaiyū-shiki), while the heavenly beauty of the pavilion is reflected in a clear pond called Kyōko-chi (Mirror Pond). The Buddhist creation story is said to be represented by the islands and stones on the pond, and the forest surrounding it makes it one of Japan’s most picturesque settings. Consequently, it became a prized subject and continues to provide inspiration for countless Japanese artists. In 1994, the pavilion became a World Cultural Heritage site. Today, it draws tourists from all over the world.

This visually-arresting three-story building is very unusual, both inside and out. It is unique for two reasons. Its upper floors are covered with gold leaf on Japanese lacquer, and each floor reflects a different architectural period of its time. The first floor is designed in a palace type style of architecture from the tenth century, called Shinden-zukuri. The second floor is Buke-zukuri, the architectural style of the samurai. The third floor is decorated in Karayo style or Zen temple style.
In 1950, disaster struck when The Golden Pavilion was burned down by a novice Buddhist monk. In 1955, Japanese architects followed its original design to reconstruct the pavilion. The only major change they made was to increase the amount of gold leaf applied to the Golden Pavilion’s exterior and interior. The present-day structure dates from 1955. In 1987, a new coating as well as gilding with gold-leaf was added. The roof was restored in 2003.
The Golden Pavilion is often linked with Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion Temple, which is also located in Kyoto.

Hours of Operation: 9:00 – 17:00
Admission: ¥500

How to get there:
By bus: Take bus number 101 or 205 from Kyoto Station.
Nearest bus stop: Kinkakuji-michi or Kinkakuji-mae.
By subway: Hop on the Karasuma Subway Line to Kitaoji Station. Then take a bus or taxi to the temple complex.
Golden Pavilion Tours: Organised guided tours are available in English to the Golden Pavilion.

I'm a chronically ill Canadian who has been living in Taiwan since 2006. I'm a bit of a jack of all trades! I love art, gardening, flower arranging, reading (that's an understatement if you've seen my GoodReads profile), and snuggling with my cats. Animal videos make me cry. I hate cooking. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my garden bloom! Learning about new cultures and exploring the world has been my thing since I started traveling at age 19. A self-professed autodidact, I can speak comfortably on many different subjects and hold a special place in my heart for science, technology, law, health and medicine, and history. You can find me nerding out at home most of the time due to being chronically ill and housebound. If I'm not engaged in one of the activities listed above, I'm probably building websites. Check my About page under Carrie Kellenberger to learn why I'm taking you on this journey with me through My Several Worlds. I can't wait to get to know you better!


  • leafgirl04

    Thanks for the post on Kinkaku-ji! The picture is gorgeous. It looks like it was a beautiful day when you went. When I was there, it was a very rainy and overcast day. But it was still a beautiful place to visit. Anyways, I was just wondering if you meant to post the same picture twice?

  • Carrie

    Hi and thanks for stopping by My Several Worlds. It was a gorgeous day. We were lucky. Thanks for pointing out that double photo error. Much appreciated. I posted last night before I went to bed and didn’t bother to check. Lesson learned! 🙂

  • kim

    I never realized you visited Kyoto, I thought you just dropped by Tokyo. I visited Kinkaku-ji in October, the weather was just as nice as on your photo. I was impressed with the shiny-ness (if that’s even a word) of it all, the temple was just as shiny and gold in real life as in pictures, I loved it. I also bought souvenirs here for my family, those temple amulets for good luck and good health. My Japanese guide claimed that they “really worked!”.

    • Carrie

      We went to Japan last year for a few weeks. We spent three days in Tokyo and then we rented a car. We drove to Mt. Fuji, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Nagano before returning to Tokyo. What an amazing trip! Definitely one of my top three! Kinkaku-ji is incredible, but I imagine the majesty of it would be lost on a cloudy day. Have your amulets really worked? 🙂

    • Carrie

      Hi Doris,
      I took the picture. I think you should put Japan at the top of your travel hit list. It’s an amazing country. There’s so much to see and do. I hope John and I get a chance to go back sometime in the next year or two.

  • kim

    O wow, that is a great trip. I’ve visited Nara too, and Osaka just for one night (the food, the neon and the street life!). I would love to see more of Osaka and Japan in general.
    The amulets have not failed yet 🙂

  • Krzysztof

    I regret I haven’t had possibilities to admire such a beautiful spaces live. Japan is far away but luckily there is a place in Poland which looks like Japanese Garden. Friends of mine were there about 3 years ago and were delighted.
    Your shot is great. However I wish I would see more. Is there any chance to see more pictures from Kyoto’s Heavenly Golden Pavilion on your flicr?

  • Carrie

    Hi Kim,

    We felt the same way about Osaka. What a great city. I thought the women in Tokyo had a wicked sense of fashion, but the ladies from Osaka can sure give them a run for their money!

  • Carrie

    Hi K,
    Aren’t you lucky to have some Japanese zen in Poland. I can’t think of any spaces that include this kind of urban landscaping in Ottawa. Unfortunately, this photo was taken with my digital point and shoot, and the rest of my photos didn’t turn out as well. I’m trying to limit the amount of photos I post to Flickr now, because I’ve got over 10,000 and there are just too many to manage now. I’m working on quality, not quantity! 🙂

  • Gerry/Cindy Noble

    Hi Carrie and John. Belated happy birthday carrie, to be 29 again. You look marvelous, simply marvelous. Great photos and articles.
    Love to you both.
    Gerry and Cindy

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