History of Kinkakuji Temple
History of Kinkakuji Temple
Overcoming many difficulties to become a World Heritage Site
Why a Phoenix at Kinkakuji Temple? Why is it there?
The Golden Pavilion: 7 Places to Visit in Each of the Seven Sights of the Golden Pavilion
Basic information about Kinkakuji Temple
Around Kinkakuji Temple

What are its history and attractions? A thorough explanation of this golden World Heritage site!

Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. Regardless of the time of year or whether it is in Japan or abroad, it is a place crowded with many tourists. One of the most famous temples in Kyoto is the Kinkakuji Temple. Many people must have seen the golden pavilion of the Golden Pavilion. Kinkakuji Temple, one of the most famous sightseeing spots not only in Kyoto but also in Japan, is an absolute must-see when visiting Kyoto. In this article, we will introduce the history and highlights of Kinkakuji Temple.

History of Kinkakuji Temple

More than 600 years since the founding of Kinkakuji Temple

Kinkakuji Temple has a history of more than 600 years since its foundation.

Kinkakuji Temple is a pagoda temple of the Shokokuji school of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism, and its history can be traced back more than 600 years. Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the third shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate, inherited the Saionji family's house and garden in Kitayama, Kyoto, and in 1397 began construction of the Kitayama-den (Kitayama Villa) and the Shari-den (Shari Hall).

The Shariden was completed the following year, and Yoshimitsu lived in the Shariden at Kinkakuji Temple until his death at the age of 51. The Shariden is the building where the remains of the Buddha, or Buddha's reliquary, are enshrined. After Yoshimitsu's death, Kitayama-den ceased to serve as the shogun's residence. In accordance with Yoshimitsu's last will and testament, it was renamed "Rokuonji Temple.

Ashikaga Yoshimitsu built the Golden Pavilion

Ashikaga Yoshimitsu built the Golden Pavilion

Some of you may have already noticed that Kinkakuji Temple is actually a nominal name. Its official name is Rokuonji Temple. It is called Kinkaku-ji Temple because Shariden, the temple's name, is "Kinkaku" (Golden Pavilion). The name "Rokuon-ji" comes from "Rokuon-in-dono," the legal name of Yoshimitsu. The Hoko means the name given by the priests of Nichiren Shoshu between his death and the time of his funeral.

Kinkakuji Temple is a stage that contributed to the flourishing trade with China and the development of culture. The garden and architecture centering on the Shariden Hall are said to represent the Pure Land of Paradise and symbolize the splendor of the Kitayama culture that flourished at that time.

The Golden Pavilion has survived reconstruction and more

Kinkakuji Temple has survived reconstruction, etc.

In 1467, the Onin War broke out. The entire Kyoto area was devastated. Kinkakuji Temple was no exception and most of the temple was destroyed by fire. Miraculously, however, some buildings, such as the Shariden, escaped damage.

In the Edo period (1603-1867), "Saishojotai" became the abbot of Kinkakuji Temple by order of Tokugawa Ieyasu. The Golden Pavilion then consolidated its economic foundation. Saisho Shozai was so skillful that both Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu used him as a political advisor. From then on, the priesthood of Kinkakuji was succeeded by the same sect as Seisho.

However, in the Meiji Era, Kinkakuji lost its economic foundation due to the disappearance of its supporters. Furthermore, Kinkakuji experienced many difficulties, such as damage caused by the Haibutsu Kishaku (the movement to abolish Buddhism). Nevertheless, through the efforts of successive generations of priests, Kinkakuji overcame these difficulties.

World Heritage Site after gilding, etc.

Gold leafing, etc., and then World Heritage Site

Kinkakuji Temple has overcome many difficulties. Among them, Shariden was spared from damage during the Onin War but It was completely destroyed by arson in 1950. The arsonist was an apprentice monk of Kinkakuji. The Shariden of Kinkakuji lost its original appearance as well as its brilliance. Five years after the fire, the Shariden was rebuilt. After undergoing renovations, including the complete replacement of gold leaf, it took on its current appearance.

In 1994, Kinkakuji Temple will be registered as a World Heritage Site as a "cultural asset of the ancient capital of Kyoto. Today, it is a popular spot for tourists from overseas. The Kinkakuji Temple has become one of the most famous tourist attractions in Japan, as it was the subject of a novel by the novelist Yukio Mishima.

Why a Phoenix at Kinkakuji Temple? Why is it there?

Phoenix of the Golden Pavilion

Phoenix at Kinkakuji looking out over the city of Kyoto

The Golden Pavilion Phoenix stands a top the roof of Kinkakuji Temple, facing south. Why is the Phoenix?" Have you ever wondered "Why a phoenix? In fact, there is a historical background as to why the Statue of the Phoenix was erected.

Here is an introduction to the Phoenix.

What kind of animal is a phoenix anyway?

Before introducing why there are phoenixes in Kinkakuji Temple, we will first explain what kind of animal a phoenix is.

The Phoenix is an imaginary animal originating from China. The body of the phoenix is said to be a cross between various animals. It is said that the entire surface of the phoenix's body resembles a qilin, the back resembles a deer, the neck resembles a snake, the tail resembles a fish, the back resembles a turtle, the chin resembles a swallow, the beak resembles a chicken, and the wings are colorful with five different colors. In China, it is considered to be one of the four spirits (qilin, phoenix, tortoise, and dragon). It is said to bring happiness and peace to people and is also said to appear when the emperor appears.

Phoenixes are also surprisingly close to you. On the reverse side of the current 10,000 yen bill, a magnificent bird is drawn on the left side. It is actually a phoenix. However, this phoenix is not from Kinkakuji Temple, but from Byodoin Temple in Kyoto.

Why the Phoenix? What is its historical background (there are various theories)?

Why is the phoenix erected? Actually, the clear reason has not been revealed. However, there are various theories that emerge from some facts. Here are some of them.

He wanted Yoshimitsu's son "Ashikaga Yoshitsugu" to be the emperor. (It is said that the Phoenix anticipates the coming of the Emperor.) The shrine was set up as a guardian deity to protect against disasters. (Shisa and Shachihoko are the images.)
It was a symbol for peace in Kyoto, a peaceful city without strife.

The above are only theories. The background as to why the phoenix is in the Golden Pavilion is still unresolved, so please take it as a reference only.

The first phoenix is a relic from the founding of Kinkakuji!

As mentioned above, Kinkakuji Temple was destroyed by arson in 1950. Fortunately, however, the original phoenix was spared from that disaster. The reason for this is that the phoenix's tail was broken during repairs made between 1904 and 1906, so it was removed for restoration and stored in a different location.

Because of this, it is the only relic of Kinkakuji remaining from the time of its foundation that survived the fire in 1950 and is kept in the precincts of Kinkakuji. Unfortunately, however, the first phoenix is not open to the public.

Incidentally, the current phoenix is the third generation; the second generation was replaced due to the effects of the phoenix's gold leaf falling off.

The Golden Pavilion: 7 Places to Visit in Each of the Seven Sights of the Golden Pavilion

Kinkakuji Temple has been registered as a World Heritage Site, but what exactly are the highlights of the temple? Here, we will introduce the highlights of Kinkakuji for each of the seven landmarks.


The Golden Temple of the Golden Pavilion of the Temple of the Golden Pavilion of the Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Golden Shariden at Kinkakuji Temple

The first thing that comes to mind when you hear Kinkakuji Temple is the Golden Shariden (Golden Pavilion). Shariden, which is also the origin of the name "Kinkakuji," is a three-story structure.

The first layer is the "Hosui-in" of the Shinden-zukuri style. Hosui refers to water that washes away vexations. The shinden-zukuri, a style of residence for aristocrats in the Heian period, was one of the characteristics of the Kitayama culture that flourished at that time. Visitors can catch a glimpse of the gorgeous Kitayama culture.

The second level is the Choondong Cave, a Buke-zukuri structure. It has the meaning of truth coming from far away like the sound of the sea. Buke-zukuri is the residential style of samurai families in the Kamakura period (1185-1333). It is a remnant of the Saionji family, which flourished in the Kamakura period.

The third level is the "Ultimate Summit," a Chinese-style Zen Buddhist temple structure. The third level is the "Ultimate Summit," a Chinese-style Zen Buddhist temple structure, meaning "the ultimate. The floor is lacquered, but the pillars and ceiling are covered with gold leaf, and Buddhist statues are enshrined.

Phoenix shines at the top of the Shariden

Phoenix shines atop the Shariden

The second and third stories are covered with pure gold leaf over lacquer, creating a perfect harmony between the three styles of the Shariden of Kinkakuji Temple. The roof was renovated in 2020, and the golden glow of the roof is now even more beautiful. Shariden is a must-see spot when visiting Kinkakuji, no matter what.


Yukatei Teahouse at Kinkakuji Temple

Yukatei Teahouse at Kinkakuji Temple

Sekkatei" is a tea ceremony room built by a tea ceremony master "Kanamori Shigechika". It is a tea ceremony room in Kinkakuji Temple. Hourin Jōshō, a Rinzai Sect priest, restored Kinkakuji Temple, which was on the verge of collapse during the Edo period and maintained the garden and pond. Hourin Jōshō ordered Kanamori Sōwa to build it for Emperor Gomizunoo, who built the Shugakuin.

The name "Yukatei" comes from the fact that "the Golden Pavilion looks especially good reflected in the setting sun. Located on a hill in the precincts of Kinkakuji Temple, Yukatei overlooks the Golden Pavilion and, as the name implies, allows visitors to see the Golden Pavilion shining in the evening sun. It is a must-visit place when you visit Kinkakuji Temple.

3.Soumon Gate

At the main gate of Kinkakuji Temple, a stone monument registered as a World Heritage Site is

A stone monument at the main entrance of Kinkakuji Temple is registered as a World Heritage site

So-mon Gate, the entrance to Kinkakuji Temple. A stone monument marking the World Heritage registration of Kinkakuji Temple is placed in front of the main gate. If you look closely, you will see five lines on the earthen wall of Kinkakuji Temple, which can be seen at the main gate. These lines are called "jogi-suji" and represent the prestige of the temple and the palace of the royal family and others.

It is divided into three levels, from three to five, according to the level of prestige, and the five ruler stripes are a sign of the highest rank. The five ruler stripes are the highest, proving that Kinkakuji is a highly prestigious temple.

4.Mirror Lake Pond

Golden Pavilion reflects in Kagamiko Pond

The Golden Pavilion reflects in Kagamiko Pond

Kyokko Pond, which stretches in front of the Golden Pavilion, is a special cultural historic site and a specially designated site. Of the 132,000 m2 of the Kinkakuji temple grounds, about 92,400 m2 is designated as "Rokuonji Garden," a special cultural historic site and a specially named site, and Kyokko Pond is the centerpiece of the garden.

Kagamiko Pond is a pond with large and small islands such as Ashihara-jima Island, as well as strange and famous rocks such as Hatakeyama-ishi. On a fine day, the reflection of the Golden Pavilion on the surface of the water makes you feel like stepping into a mirror world.

5. An Minzawa

Anminzawa, a power spot in Kinkakuji

Aminzawa, a power spot in Kinkakuji

Anminzawa, located on the west side of Yugatei and surrounded by trees, is a pond that was used as a place to pray for rain. This pond was used as a place to pray for rain because it does not dry up even if the sun shines for a long time. On a small island floating in the pond is the "White Snake Mound. It is a stone pagoda with five rings piled on top of each other, and is said to be the guardian of the Saionji family.

Due to the recent power spot boom, some people call the mound of white snakes the power spot of the Golden Pavilion. Also, if you look back after viewing Anminzawa, you will see the beautiful Golden Pavilion, commonly known as "Kinkaku of Looking Back. Please be sure to look back when you view Anminzawa.

6. Ginga Fountain

Water gushes at Galaxy Spring

Water gushes at Galactic Spring

Gingasen (Ginga Spring) is located at the end of the back side of the Golden Pavilion after passing through the main gate of Kinkakuji Temple. It is said that Yoshimitsu used the fresh water from this spring when he drank tea. Although named "Gingasen," it is actually not a spring but a small puddle of water. The water is still gushing out, but please note that it is not drinkable.

7. Ryumon Falls

Pray for success at Ryumon Falls for success in life

Ryumon-no-taki Waterfall has blessings for success in life

The "Ryumon-no-taki" waterfall cascades down from a height of approximately 2.3 meters. A "carp fish stone," derived from a Chinese legend that a carp transforms into a dragon when it climbs up the waterfall, is placed here. The slanting, moving stone represents a dragon about to leap up. It is believed to be effective in praying for success in life due to its vigor and legend.

Basic information about Kinkakuji Temple

Access: 5 min. walk from "Kinkakuji-michi" of City Bus Line 205 from JR Kyoto Stn.
Address: 1 Kinkakuji-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto, 603-8361, Japan
Hours: 9:00-17:00
Admission: Adults (high school students and older): 400 yen Elementary and junior high school students: 300 yen
*Price will change to 500 yen for adults from April 1, 2023.
Official website: Kinkakuji

Around Kinkakuji Temple

Kinkakuji Temple is so famous that it is the first name that comes to mind when talking about Kyoto. However, Kinkakuji is not the only highlight of Kyoto. Here are some sightseeing spots in Kyoto that you should visit along with Kinkakuji Temple.

Ginkakuji Temple

Ginkakuji, the birthplace of Higashiyama culture

Ginkakuji Temple, the birthplace of Higashiyama culture

Like Kinkakuji Temple, Ginkakuji Temple is registered as a World Heritage Site as a "cultural asset of the ancient capital of Kyoto. It is the birthplace of the Higashiyama culture of "wabi-sabi. Its official name is Jishoji Temple. Unlike Kinkakuji, Ginkakuji Temple does not have a silver building, but it is a place where the unique aesthetic sense of the Japanese people can be felt.

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Ryoanji Temple

Ryoan-ji Temple, famous for its dry landscape

Ryoan-ji Temple, famous for its karesansui (dry landscape garden)

Ryoan-ji Temple is famous for its karesansui (dry landscape) stone garden. Like Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji, it is registered as a World Heritage site. The aspect ratio of the stone garden at Ryoan-ji Temple is the golden ratio, which is considered the most beautiful ratio. The stone garden is sloped to become lower toward the back of the garden, creating a sense of depth.

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What are the history and highlights of Ryoan-ji Temple? A World Heritage Site in Kyoto, famous for its stone garden

Ninna-ji Temple

Ninna-ji Temple, famous for its Tsurezuregusa

Ninna-ji Temple, well-known for the Tsurezuregusa

Ninna-ji Temple appears in Kenko Hoshi's essay "Tsurezuregusa. The five-story pagoda, Niomon Gate, and other structures built in the Edo period stand side by side in the precincts of the temple. Kyoto is home to many World Heritage sites, with Kinkakuji Temple at the top of the list. Ninna-ji Temple is also a registered World Heritage site. The Omuro-zakura cherry trees, planted at the same time as the buildings were constructed, are at their best in mid-April and look just as they did then.

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Kinkakuji Temple is popular both at home and abroad

In this issue, we introduced Kinkakuji Temple, one of the most popular spots in Kyoto. Kinkakuji Temple is registered as a World Heritage site as a sightseeing spot in the ancient capital of Kyoto. It is a place that attracts many tourists from overseas and many students visit on school excursions.

Even if you visited there on a school excursion, you will feel the beauty of Kinkakuji Temple again when you visit there again as an adult. Why not visit Kinkakuji Temple when you go to Kyoto?