By: Ellen Burne
Before I get on with this post and show you the amazing-ness that is the Golden Pavillion, can we just take a minute to appreciate this semi-street art? This was spotted inside someones garage while walking to the train station and I just think it is so awesome.
Anyway, back on to what this post is really about - Kinkaku-Ji - Kyoto's famous Golden Temple!
After a fricking delightful start to the day at Arashiyama, my friend Kaisha and I had to work our way from Saga Arashiyama Station North-East towards the base of Daimonji Yama mountain.
If you are travelling from Saga-Arashiyama Station: Catch the San-In line bound for Kyoto and get off at Emmachi Station. From Emmachi, walk 2 minutes (the direction is well signed) to a nearby bus stop and get on bus number 205. Get off at the Kinkaku-ji Michi stop - from there, it is just a short walk to the temple.
If you are travelling directly from Kyoto Station, catch the city bus 101 or 205 for 40 minutes to Kinkaku-ji Michi stop. This trip will set you back around ¥230 ($2.50).
Entrance to Kinkaku-ji costs ¥400 ($5) and it is well worth the money. This temple is definitely a touristy destination (no off the beaten track travel here) but it is one of those places that is worth braving the crowds for.
The history of the Golden Pavillion is incredibly interesting. The temple that is standing now is far from the originally constructed building.
The glorious structure was first constructed in 1393 as a retirement home for Shogun Yoshimitsu Ashikaga. The entirety of the temple was intended to be covered with gold but he only managed to finish the third floor ceiling before his death in 1409. If you read my post about Ginkaku-Ji (the Silver Pavillion) then you may be sensing a theme here!
After the Shoguns death, the building was converted to a zen temple by his son. However, during the Onin War (1467-1477) the temple was burnt down several times. Despite this, it was always rebuilt.
Then in 1950 a fanatical monk once again set flames to the temple. It was rebuilt in 1955 and the result of this rebuild is what remains today.
Though this temple may not be hundreds of years old, that it no way takes away from the utter gorgeousness of it, and also of its surrounding grounds. The small lake provides some truly glorious reflections, the greenery is as lush as can be and there are more photo opportunities than you can poke a stick at.
As I had expected, the place was fairly packed when we were visiting. What I had not expected was how many classes of local kids would be visiting! It seemed like everywhere we went - there was another class of Japanese school children. I would have been so stoked to go on that many excursions when I was in school.
While at Kinkaku-ji, I was approached by a local school teacher who asked if some of her students could ask me questions in English as part of a class assignment. I am not entirely sure if the assignment was about tourism or more about talking to people in a second language, but either way, I was happy to participate! They were all fairly timid, only the boy on the left side of this next photograph was able to go ahead and talk to me. I can't for the life of me remember what the questions were, just how nervous he looked. It was sweet! Once he was done I asked for a photo and they were willing to oblige but not overly keen. The whole thing was rather funny.
After we were done chatting, it was time to continue our self guided tour of this gorgeous little temple.
I mean, seriously! Even on an overcast day the Golden Pavillion just lights up and illuminates everything around it.
It is stupidly pretty.
Like anywhere in Japan, for the best experience - go early in the morning. But the good thing about Kinkaku-ji is that with the circular lake and the way the grounds are set up, even when the place is full it is still relatively easy to take beautiful shots without a tonne of strangers getting into frame.
Kinkaku-ji is undoubtedly stunning, and if you are ever in Kyoto - it is well worth a visit.
Getting to Kyoto: Though Kansai airport is the closest airport to Kyoto, it is often cheaper to fly into Shin-Osaka airport and catch a short 30 minute train to Kyoto
Getting to Kinkaku-Ji: From Kyoto Station, catch the city bus 101 or 205 to Kinkaku-ji Michi stop