Kinkaku (金閣) / Rokuon-ji (鹿苑寺)

Set in Kyoto’s peaceful hills, Rokuon-ji(鹿苑寺) is a zen Buddhist temple famous for its golden shrine. It is a Historic Monument of Ancient Kyoto and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The gold-coated temple is known by most as Kinkaku(金閣), the golden pavilion. The garden and golden shrine are thought to represent the pure land of Buddha on the earth. The temple is built on a villa purchased by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu(足利義満) in 1397. At his request, it was converted into a temple after his death in 1408. It has served as a guesthouse for the emperor and many nobles in addition to centuries of temple service. Today the temple contains relics of the Buddha.

Surrounded by a pond and gardens set in a mountainous landscape, the main shrine(舎利殿) features three levels of traditional architecture gleaming in gold. A golden phoenix ornament sits at the peak of the roof. Visitors can enjoy the view of the shrine and its reflection on Mirror Pond(鏡湖池). The shrine and pond are the focal point of the grounds. A strolling-style garden winds around overlooking the pond with its islets and decorative rocks. Smaller traditional buildings hide in the hills above.