Kyoto is undergoing something of a tourism boom at the moment and for better or for worse, its easy to understand why. In comparison to the neon sprawl of Tokyo, the ancient capital of Kyoto is a capsule of Japan’s history and culture.
One of its most popular attractions is Kinkakuji, the temple of the golden pavilion, part of the UNESCO recognised Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. Officially named Rokuonji, The Golden Pavilion is a striking piece of architecture, covered in gold leaf and contrasting with the lush garden scenery surrounding it. The current building is not particularly ancient, given that the original was burned down in 1950 by a disturbed acolyte serving at the temple, but it has been faithfully reconstructed in exacting detail.
Rokuonji has a long history. It was originally a house owned by a powerful statesman before being purchased by the Shogun Yoshimitsu Ashikaga in 1397. After Yoshimitsu’s death, it was converted into a Bhuddist temple, which it remains today. The interesting thing about Kinkakuji’s design is that it incorporates three distinct styles of medieval architecture, something that is clearly visible from its appearance. The first floor is designed in the style of a Heian-era aristocrat’s residence. The second floor is that of a warrior family’s residence. The third floor is in a Chinese Bhuddist style. The pavilion is situated in a huge garden, preserved from its ancient days, and placed on the edge of a pond that reflects it perfectly, adding to its striking appearance.
Kinkakuji is abut a 30 minute bus ride from Kyoto station and as on of the big tourist draws, you can expect big crowds pretty much all year round. That said, its ancient garden is laid out in such a way that it’s still very easy to get a great view of the building and the various features of its garden no matter how many people are packed in.