Kinkaku-ji, temple of the golden pavilion, is a magnificent Buddhist temple in Kyoto and a popular stop for tourists. In spite of being known for its famous golden structure, the temple’s real name is Rokuon-ji or deer garden temple.
The gardens surrounding the temple are elegant if minimalist. This is an example of the Muromachi style of garden design where there is an emphasis on buildings and their surroundings to integrate them in an artistic way. The trees and shrubbery in the vicinity are carefully manicured and encompassed by blue rocks. The pond around which Kinkaku-ji sits reflects its golden image on calm days.
The pavilion is three stories high, and each level is built in a distinctly different style. The first level imitates the style used in palaces during the Heian period. The second level reflects the structure of a samurai home and is covered in gold leafing. The third level is entirely gilded and mimics the style of a Chinese zen hall.
Unfortunately, the pavilion is not the original structure built around 1400. In the 1950s, it succumb to fire and was rebuilt. Some people contest the amount of gold decorating the upper levels exaggerates the original structure’s gilding. This could be true, however, the added gold only intensifies the impact of the temple upon visitors.