The setting sun glows off the gold leaf on Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto, aptly named the Golden Pavilion.
Undoubtedly Kyoto’s most famous site, if not the most famous site in Japan, the Zen Temple of Kinkaku-ji is the ultimate bling building. The top two stories are completely covered in gold leaf – even the gutters and gutter spouts shine.
The original structure built in the late 1300’s became the retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and was then turned into a zen temple after his death. Each of the three floors represents different architectural styles. This elaborate design is a reflection of the wealthy aristocratic culture in Kyoto in the late 14th century. The building has burned down numerous times during the centuries and has been rebuilt, with the current structure being from the 1950’s.
What makes this such a beautiful site to visit though is not just the over-the-top gold building, but the complete aesthetically perfect surroundings in which the temple is situated. The pond, the gardens and all the views as you walk the path provide picture perfect perspectives – literally. It’s hard to take a bad photo. Clearly, the position of the trees, the shape of the pond, the location of the islands, the decorative boulders and plants have all been thoughtfully positioned to frame and complement the view of the temple at any time of day or during any season.
This temple is one of seventeen temples in Kyoto that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. It is a very popular attraction and gets very crowded. We visited at the end of the day which got a little less busy near closing time and also had the advantage of the setting sun reflecting off the gold leaf.
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