Possibly the most famous shrine in Kyoto, the Golden Pavilion is an opulent and beautiful sight. The top two floors of the building are coated in a thick layer of gold that makes it shine even on an overcast day. The official name for the temple is Rokuon-ji, or the Deer Garden Temple, although I saw no signs of deer there, but it is generally referred to as the Temple of the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji). The gold symbolizes purity and is meant to ward off negative thoughts of death. The temple was burned down in the ’50s by a young monk, so the current temple is technically a recreation of the original. The modern gold leaf is 5x thicker than the original coat as well. Actually, when the temple was first built as a residence in the 14th century, only the ceiling of the top floor was covered in gold. Each floor of the pavilion was designed in a unique architectural style. The bottom floor, the ‘chamber of dharma waters’ is open to the surrounding water and gardens with half walls, allowing one to enjoy nature unspoiled, while the second floor ‘the tower of sound waves’ was designed in the same style as samurai houses. The third floor was designed according to zen principles and is called the ‘cupola of the ultimate.’
Full gallery here.
Unfortunately, since we had traveled to Kyoto in the middle of the rainy season, there was a steady soaking rain the entire time we explored the temple. This didn’t stop the crowds though, the entire grounds were quite crowded all through the trails around the temple and gardens. I know I’ve said this before, but this is a site you must visit if you go to Kyoto even for a day. There were some pictures of the temple in the snow at the giftshop and it is really stunning then. The gold exterior is magnificent surrounded by white snow. Braving the mobs of people and the rain allowed for some stunning views of the temple across the water. Photos don’t really do it justice. The walk through the gardens after you pass the temple was really relaxing as well. As was the green tea served towards the end of the tour (for a nominal fee). Sitting and drinking tea out of the rain with a soothing natural view in front of you is a fine way to melt your stresses away. Especially with some fine company.