Kinkaku-ji is a temple located on the north side of Kyoto. This is one of the most recognizable and popular tourist attractions. If you are going to Kyoto you must see it. It is also called the Golden Pavilion because of the real gold it is covered with. Kinkaku-ji has been inscribed on the World Heritage List and is still one of the most stunning buildings in Japan.

Kinkaku-ji was built by the influential Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in 1398. It was a villa where he wanted to spend his retirement. According to Shogun’s will, after his death in 1408 Kinkaku-ji became a Zen temple. Each floor of this 3-story building was built in a different historical architectural style. The lower floor presents the Shinden style, in which Japanese palaces from the 8th-12th century were built. They are characterized by open verandas which were built of unpainted wood and the walls were covered with white plaster. The first floor was built in Bukke style and it looks like a samurai residence. Sliding wooden doors and latticed windows were used. The last floor presents the Chinese Zen Hall. The present Golden Pavilion is a reconstruction of the building that has been completely burned. Twice. The first destruction took place during the wars in the fifteenth century. In 1950 the Golden Pavilion was burned down by a young monk who had mental illness. He deliberately set fire to the temple and then tried to commit suicide. Kinkaku-ji after reconstruction is covered with a much thinner layer of gold leaf than the original building. Apparently in the days of Shogunate, they had more money.

At the lowest level are the statues of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and Shaka Nyorai. Unfortunately, as tourists, we cannot see them. Kinkaku-ji is closed to the public and the temple can be admired only from the outside. The temple area is a huge complex of gardens and paths that wind around the main building. These are well manicured grounds. You will not find an unnecessary blade of grass or a withered twig there. While strolling around Kinkaku-ji, we see it from different angles, each of which creates an unique landscape. It is a mountainous area so we are slowly climbing a hill from which we can admire the Pavilion among the trees.

The temple is built over a pond that is called Mirror Pond. It symbolizes the ocean and the islands located on it are Japan which always looks towards the sea. There is always a mirror image of the Golden Pavilion in the water but it changes with the seasons. In spring and summer Kinkaku-ji shines in full sun. In winter, the landscape becomes more austere. However, for a few days of winter the temple is covered with snow. This even emphasizes the golden color of the Pavilion.

On the roof of the temple is a golden phoenix, which in Japan is a symbol of the empire, as well as the sun. This mythical, fiery bird heralds new ages. He comes from heaven when peace reigns and flees back there when the times of war come. It is also a symbol of fidelity, justice and it is a messenger of goodwill. Usually it is presented with peacock feathers.

As I have already mentioned, around the Golden Pavilion there is a huge complex with other attractions.

In the temple, you can send your requests to the deities inhabiting this area…

… and in a traditional teahouse, you can take shelter from the scorching sun and taste matcha and wagashi.

Koi carps are waiting for you in the pond. They are always hungry, they put their mouths above the surface of the water in the hope that they will get some delicious snacks.

The whole area was designed in accordance with the Zen philosophy. Nothing is a coincidence here. The location of each stone and plant has been well thought out. This symbolize the harmony between heaven and earth. On one of the islets on the pond there is the White Snake Pagoda. Legend says that one of Shogun’s many lovers was jealous and drowned in this place in despair. Shogun built a Pagoda for her to comfort her soul. How lovely.

Kinkaku-ji is one of the most important temples in Kyoto and there are thousands of temples and shrines in this city. For sure its popularity is influenced by the fact that it is covered with gold leaf, which makes the Pavilion an unique place. In Kyoto there is also a Silver Pavilion, which was built by the descendant of Shogun Ashikag Yoshimitsu but I will tell you about it next time.

Last look at the Golden Pavilion

And another one 

Now it is really the last one

All photos belong to @kocinka

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