One of the biggest tourist attractions in Kyoto is without a doubt Kinkaku-ji, otherwise known as The Golden Pavilion, and having already seen a castle, a shrine and cherry trees in the morning, this was definitely destined to be the big sight for our day!
Kinkaku-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple in northern Kyoto whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. Formally known as Rokuon-ji, the temple was the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and according to his will it became a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect after his death in 1408.
(Kinkaku-ji was the inspiration for the similarly named Ginkaku-ji – Silver Pavilion – built by Yoshimitsu’s grandson, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, on the other side of the city a few decades later.)
Kinkaku-ji is an impressive structure built overlooking a large pond, and is the only building left of Yoshimitsu’s former retirement complex. It has burned down numerous times throughout its history including twice during the Onin War, a civil war that destroyed much of Kyoto; and once again more recently in 1950 when it was set on fire by a fanatic monk. The present structure was rebuilt in 1955.
Designated as a National Special Historic Site and a National Special Landscape, Kinkaku-ji is also one of the 17 locations comprising the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto World Heritage Site.
(In other words, expect a LOT of tourists – and consequently, traders).
As you might suspect, Kinkaku-ji, its pond, and strolling garden is a spectacular sight to behold, and was certainly one of the visual highlights of my Japanese trip.