Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)#10 in Best Things To Do in Kyoto
Its top two floors swathed in gold leaf, the Golden Pavilion sits pretty in Kyoto's northern reaches, overlooking the glassy surface of Mirror Lake. Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu lived in the gilded structure in the late 14th and early 15th centuries after he passed political power down to his son, Ashikaga Yoshimochi. When his father died, Yoshimochi had the pavilion converted into a Buddhist temple. However, in 1950, an extremist monk set the golden temple aflame, reducing it to smoldering ashes. What now stands is a replica of Kinkaku-ji that was built in 1955.
Many recent travelers note the gorgeous natural scenery surrounding Kinkaku-ji; the golden temple reflecting in the smooth lake makes for a great photo, no matter the season. Unfortunately, some visitors say that throngs of tourists mar the temple's tranquil atmosphere. To enjoy the attraction without the crowds, heed the advice of reviewers and avoid an afternoon or weekend visit. Keep in mind: Visitors are not permitted to enter the pavilion.
To get to Kinkaku-ji, take Kyoto City Bus No. 101 or 205 from Kyoto Station (about 40 minutes) or bus No. 101, 102, 204 or 205 from Kitaoji Station (about 15 minutes). The temple is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day, and entry costs 400 yen (about $4) for adults and 300 yen (about $3) for students. For more information about Kinkaku-ji, visit the temple's website.
More Best Things To Do in Kyoto
#1 Fushimi Inari Shrine
As far as Shinto shrines go (there are about 400 in Kyoto), this one is pretty special. Perched on a wooded hillside in southern Kyoto, Fushimi Inari is a 1,300-year-old temple dedicated to Inari, the Shinto deity of rice and sake (Japanese rice wine). The shrine complex dates back to the eighth century, but it's not the star of the show. Most visitors come for the close to 10,000 red and orange lacquered torii gates that line the 2 ½-mile-long path up Mount Inari, where the shrine sits. Sometimes in dense rows and other times more staggered, the gates are all engraved with the names of Shinto devotees who donated them.
It takes about three hours to make the trek up the mountain, and some recent visitors say that the hike is mildly strenuous, but almost all agree this is a must-see spot in Kyoto, especially for first-time visitors. Plus, travelers report that there are plenty of places to stop and rest along the way. Peer at the dozens of stone and bronze foxes that line the paths along with the gates (foxes are thought to be Inari's sacred messengers). Or stop in to one of the tea houses or restaurants situated on the path, which serve udon noodle soup and sushi. Because crowds are drawn to their picturesque beauty, Fushimi Inari's trails can get quite congested during the day. To avoid the multitudes, opt for an evening stroll up the mountain – recent visitors say the pervading quiet coupled with the fading light filtering through the trees and torii gates makes for an eerie and spiritual experience. Early morning is another optimal time to experience the shrine sans the crowds.
Explore More of Kyoto
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.