Kinkakuji Temple (also known as the Golden Pavilion) is one of the most iconic and famous places in Japan.
The ancient capital of Kyoto is full of interesting shrines and temples and historical buildings, but I think this one probably takes the cake for the nicest looking temple in Japan.
It’s the #1 most visited tourist site in Kyoto, and for pretty good reason! It’s almost impossible to take a bad photo here!This travel guide will explain how to get there, and everything you need to know before you go!
History Of Kinkaku-ji
Kinkaku-ji originally started as a villa, and then it was turned into a Zen temple around the 1400s. Many of the buildings were destroyed in the Onin War in the mid-1400s, but the pavilion survived intact.
In the 1950s, a huge portion of the pavilion was burned and suffered catastrophic damage when it was set on fire by a suicidal monk. It was restored in 1955, and has been maintained ever since.
Today, Kinkaku attracts many tourists from all over the world, and along with some of Kyoto’s other ancient monuments it’s recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visiting Kinkaku-ji Temple
Kinkakuji Temple is a 3-story gold-leaf covered temple overlooking a pond.
The pavilion itself is closed to visitors, but that’s okay because the best views are on the outside!
It’s a pretty small place, but you’ll still want to budget at least 30-60 minutes here because you’ll be taking a lot of pictures as you stroll around.
This is one of the most photogenic places in Japan!
When To Visit
The best time to visit Kinkakuji is in the morning before the wind picks up, then you can see reflections on the pond.
It gets extremely crowded by midday, especially during holidays and peak seasons like autumn.
Kinkaku is not known for being a top place to see koyo (fall colors), but you can still see some bright red leaves on a few of the trees. We went in mid-November and it was at its peak.
Hours & Entrance Fees
- Open: Daily
- Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM
- Fees: 400¥ (~$4)
How To Get There
Kinkakuji Temple is located just northwest of Kyoto city in Japan.
Unfortunately it’s not directly connected to any of the main train routes, but it’s still pretty easy to get there.
From Kyoto Station, you can take a 40 minute bus ride on line 205, or a 20 minute Uber ride.
If you’re coming from Osaka like we were, a great way to arrange it is to get off the train at Arashiyama station, see some of the best sights there, and then take a quick Uber to Kinkakuji.
Where To Stay In Kyoto
Where We Stayed
We stayed at Hotel Mikado in Osaka for 4,000 Yen ($30 USD). As a solo traveler or couple, you won't find a better budget hotel in Japan!
For this price we got a clean, private room with heat/AC, fridge, TV, and super fast WiFi. The room is a little small but comfy, and bathrooms are shared, but that's the norm in Japan.
The location was perfect -- just a 2 minute walk from restaurants and the train stations, and only a 15 minute ride to Osaka Castle and Dotonbori shopping street. We also made day trips to Himeji, Kyoto, and Nara!
Prices may fluctuate from time to time, so just keep an eye out for a good deal.
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If you ever get a chance to travel to Japan, Kyoto is a must place to visit. The Buddha temple is absolutely beautiful. Be sure to take your camera as the grounds and temple are very picturesque. We took the bullet train to Kyoto from Tyoko. Fastest train I have every been on! Amazing trip. We stayed in a traditional Japanese hotel which is what I recommend so you will get the full experience of being in Japan. My wife and I would like to make a return trip to Japan in the near future. A great trip with the friendliest people in the world!