Kinkaku-ji also known as the Golden Pavilion, was originally built in 1397 as a retirement villa for a shogun and according to his will, it later became a Zen temple after his death. The Golden Pavilion is now designated as a World Heritage site by Unesco. It opens daily from 9am to 5pm and has admission fee. The entry ticket itself is an art form worthwhile as a souvenir.
From the Kyoto station, we took bus #101 from bus stand B2 for Kinkaku-ji. The bus will stop at Kinkakujimichi bus stop and the entrance to the temple is about 6~8 minutes walk away. We reached the entrance door early at 8:30 am and naturally it was still closed.
In-front of the entrance, a short line has already started to build for tickets. While we waited for the doors to open, more visitors arrived and the ticket line has swelled to four. Adding to the crowd, a bus load of school children also turned up. Precisely 9:00 am the doors opened and the scramble for tickets began. The ticket counter was efficient and the crowd got their tickets quickly and started to walk in.
A tree-lined path leads you to a pond, in the middle of which stands Kinkaku-ji. Its walls covered with gold leaf, is beautifully reflected by the waters. This is truly a mesmerizing sight. The structure being almost covered in gold leaf, earns the name Golden Pavilion. Perched on this three storey building, is a phoenix which goes unnoticed by many visitors.
Like most major sites around Kyoto, one will be impressed with the temples and their grounds but disappointingly overwhelmed with the huge crowds, similar to the one we experienced at the bamboo forest earlier. The beauty of these attractions are also compromised by the noise they make especially tour groups that are hurrying through to get to their next attraction. Once the tour & the school groups left, calmness sets in and you’ll be back to your normal sense. Luckily these groups weren’t long before they left. Thank god.
Walking along the pond surrounding the pavilion, you’ll pass some wooden architectural designed buildings. Referring to information from the pamphlet, this could be the former head priest living quarters. Walking further on, you’ll be passing the back of the pavilion and onward through some well maintained garden. Nearing the end of the walking path are souvenir stalls and restrooms. The walking path involves sections with stairs, nothing too strainous but not wheelchair friendly.
Our walk towards the exit pass through gardens with maple trees with leaves starting to turn reddish signifying the start of autumn. The garden are well kept and it’s difficult to find fallen leaves along the pathway. The whole pathway isn’t long and can be completed leisurely in less than an hour, if you can avoid the crowd.
Being our 4th day in Kyoto, Kinkaku-ji is the last attraction we will be visiting before leaving for Osaka. We have also intended to visit the Silver Pavilion and the Philosopher’s walk but after reading reviews decided for the more exquisite Golden Pavilion.