When a Picture Comes to Life – the Golden Pavilion

The Golden Pavilion

We managed to find an apartment with a kitchen just north of Kyoto City, but still in Kyoto. Never really knowing just how far you are until you actually have your feet on the ground, your booking is always unsure. As it turned out the apartment was incredible small, but this is normal for Japan. Little furniture is normal too.

We always prefer to be walking distance from most things and take the subway or buses as needed. I knew, at booking, that we would be approx 30 mins walking from the “Golden Pavilion”. The official name is Kinkakuji-shi Temple.


Villa to Temple

It turns out this temple was built as a retirement villa and became a Zen temple on death of the owner (a shogun) in 1408. It was part of his will.

This is the fourth construction of the temple. It burned down twice in a civil war and burned again by a fanatical monk – that conjures interesting images. The one we see now was built in 1955.

The top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. As for the inside, I do not know as you are not allowed inside any of the buildings on the site. It is the only building of the Shogun’s retirement complex left standing, though there are other buildings here.

Viewing the Temple

It is a very organized path that you follow once you have your ticket and the tickets alone are souvenirs – like big bookmarks. There are guards along the way making sure to walk one way – very friendly, but I still would not buck the system here.

It is impossible not to get a reflective picture. It is just a matter of waiting for your turn. The wait is not long. Even without sun – we had mostly cloudy days which I learned afterwards was from a typhoon moving through – the temple has great colour and shines.

Magpie was surprised to learn that it was real gold.

When you first see the temple, pond and trees, it is incredibly calming and mediative, even with all the people around you.

I was drawn back to the temple, so we came through the whole circuit again in order for me to just take it in, again.  I could easily spend a day there, just gazing.

Magpie was impressed by the temple and from a building across the pathway from it. This building had impeccably groomed trees, which you would expect from Japan, but this tree/bush reminded Magpie of a snake. I think he came to the notion from a book he was reading.

A tree shaped like a snake

A tree shaped like a snake


The Complex

The area itself is small but beautiful, in my mind, anyway. You see, it is surrounded by mountains and mountains have a pull on me. The mountains are full with trees which are lush with leaves and needles – which were starting to turn. Your direction is regulated on a path in one way, there is no jostling with people going the opposite direction. That, in itself,  was a blessing.

golden temple pathway

pathway with stairs

















The path meanders pass another building, behind the temple, through the woods to a small tea house, pass a few stone temples where people throw coins and make wishes. Magpie wanted to collect the coins. He is obsessed with coins that have holes in them.

wishing spots

wishing spots


Anyway, you eventually come to an area with more buildings that is basically the store, washrooms, a practicing temple and the exit. It is a very short walk, but there is much to take in on the spiritual side.

incense for burning at the temple

incense for burning at the temple

















The unfortunate part is coming out of the complex. It is surrounded by nature and is very peaceful, even with all the people, not that Japan is noisy, really.

The best way to sum it up is – a japanese picture coming to life.

Getting There

The Golden Pavilion is located in the north-west corner of Kyoto. It can be reached by bus or a combination of subway and bus, or subway and walking. From Kyoto City it is approx a 1 hr walk and from the subway stop K11 to the temple is approx a 30 min walk.

We walked as we were close to the K11 stop.

Kinkakuji-shi Temple, The Golden Temple

We would love to hear your thoughts and/or let us know if you like it.

10 thoughts on “When a Picture Comes to Life – the Golden Pavilion

Leave a Reply