Kinkaku-ji temple, or the Golden Pavilion, is one of the most iconic temples in Kyoto, Japan. It is a Zen Buddhist temple and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visiting Kinkakuji in Kyoto should be at the top of your Japan itinerary.
Kyoto is the best city to visit in Japan if you want to visit temples and shrines. Our Kyoto itinerary for today is very full. By the end of the day, you will have so many amazing memories and photos. Kinkakuji is the first temple on the agenda. Followed by Tenryuji and the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. Then a trip on the Sagano Romantic Train and feeding the monkeys at Arashiyama Monkey Park.
Table of Contents
- Kinkakuji Temple Kyoto
- Visiting Kinkakuji Temple
- Where to stay in Kyoto
- Final thoughts
Kinkakuji Temple Kyoto
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Kyoto’s Golden Temple, Kinkakuji, is in fact covered in gold! It is covered in gold leaf which is reported to have come at an enormous cost. The original golden pavilion was built in 1397 on this site and its official name is Rokuonji. Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu used the temple as his home in his later years. After his death, it was converted into a Zen Buddhist temple. Since then it had suffered damage and destruction. The last time it was burned down was in 1950 and the current temple was rebuilt in 1955.
After purchasing your entrance ticket, you will walk through the Main Gate. Immediately, you will be greeted by the shimmering golden pavilion. Seeing it with your own eyes is beyond expectation. The temple sits proudly over the pond and its reflection is stunning. On top of the building is a magnificent phoenix.
Stop. Take your time here.
Kinkakuji is one of the best places to visit in Kyoto. I recommend spending as much time as you can in the pond area admiring this building. All too soon you will begin to walk through the beautifully landscaped gardens. You will hope to catch a glimpse of the golden temple from a different angle or from above. But you won’t. The temple is quite hidden and while you briefly see a little bit of the roof and upper floor, that’s it.
The Kinkakuji building is closed to visitors, so you will not be able to enter it. It is also blocked off from visitors being able to go near it or touch it.
Around the grounds
After the main event of seeing Kinkakuji in all its glory, you will follow the path through the grounds. The grounds are very pleasant to walk through. There is a display of stone Buddhas that you’re able to flick coins into for luck.
Towards the end of the complex, you will come to a restored tea house. It is beautiful to look at with its mossy thatched roof. Nearby are other temples and shrines for worship.
Time spent at Kinkakuji
You will need 1 to 1 1/2 hours to explore the Kinkakuji complex. Please take your time admiring the golden temple. If you aim to get to Kinkakuji on opening, you will have plenty of time left in the day to visit more top attractions in Kyoto.
Visiting Kinkakuji Temple
The best time to visit Kyoto and the Golden Pavilion is debatable! Of course, the cherry blossom season in Kyoto is absolutely incredible. As this is one of the most popular places in Japan, you do need to contend with the crowds. Also, the prices may be higher as Spring is peak season. Autumn is another beautiful time of the year to go because of the fall foliage. It is not as busy as Spring and it may be slightly cheaper. Be wary of Summer as it can be the rainy season.
How to get to Kinkauji Temple
There are a few ways to get to the Golden Pavilion of Kyoto. It depends on where you are visiting from and your budget and time constraints.
While you can visit Kinkakuji from Tokyo as a day trip, it is recommended that you spend a few days in Kyoto. Spending time in Kyoto will allow you to visit some of the key Kyoto tourist attractions.
The easiest way to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto station is by catching the Shinkansen. If you have a JR Rail Pass, the bullet train will take about 2 1/2 hours. The best way to check the Tokyo to Kyoto train schedule is to use the Hyperdia website or app. This app is by far the most important tool for catching trains in Japan.
Related: Order your JR Rail Pass here.
Visiting Kinkakuji can be completed as an easy day trip to Kyoto from Osaka. If you have a JR Rail Pass, you can catch the Shin-Osaka to Kyoto Shinkansen. The bullet train will take you less than 15 minutes to travel between Shin-Osaka station and Kyoto station. A normal train will take about 25 minutes. Make sure you check the Osaka to Kyoto train schedule using the Hyperdia website or app.
Getting to Kinkakuji from Kyoto Station
Travelling from Kyoto station to Kinkakuji is very straight forward. There is a city bus that goes past the entrance to Kinkakuji. The bus terminal is clearly signposted at Kyoto station so it is easy to find. You can buy an all-day Kyoto bus pass for 600 Yen. This is good value if you are utilising buses for other places to visit in Kyoto on the same day.
The bus from Kyoto station takes about 45 minutes as the temple is a fair distance from Kyoto station. It also gets quite full of people travelling to Kinkakuji as it is one of the most popular Kyoto tourist attractions. From the bus stop, it is a short walk to the entrance.
Alternatively, you could catch a taxi. This will be quicker, but more expensive. You will need to decide if the trade-off is worth it.
Kinkakuji opening hours
You can visit the Kinkakuji Golden Pavilion between 9 am and 5 pm daily.
As this is one of the popular Kyoto tourist spots, it gets very busy. It is recommended that you visit on weekdays. Try to arrive as early as you can after opening to avoid the large crowds.
Check the official website for time changes.
Kinkakuji entrance fee
It will cost 400 Yen for adults to enter the Kinkakuji grounds. For children, it is 300 Yen.
Check the official website for entrance fee changes.
Where to stay in Kyoto
The best places to stay in Kyoto is near the Kyoto train station. This is because the train station is the easiest way to access the different forms of Kyoto transportation. Getting around Kyoto by public transport is very convenient. Near Kyoto station, you will also find a bicycle rental store. Hiring a bike to ride is a fantastic way to see many Kyoto tourist spots as the city seems designed for bicycles. Kyoto hotels are not cheap. This is because the Kyoto prefecture is very popular with tourists. Be mindful of this when working out your travel budget.
Within easy walking distance of Kyoto station, the APA Hotel Kyoto-Ekikita is sure to please.
If you are looking at where to go in Kyoto, you can’t miss Japan’s Golden Temple. Without a doubt, it is one of the best temples in Kyoto or Japan for that matter! A Kyoto trip wouldn’t be complete without the Golden Pavilion on your itinerary. There are many things to do in Kyoto and visiting Kinkakuji is one of the best.
After visiting Kinkakuji, we travelled to Arashiyama. This was the point when I weighed up the time vs cost equation. I caught a taxi from Kinkakuji to Arashiyama because it was convenient and quicker. It cost about 2,200 Yen at the time.
Arashiyama has so many things to see and do. It really deserves a full day there, but my itinerary didn’t allow for it. I don’t think you could ever really see everything Japan has to offer in a lifetime.