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Kyoto's Golden Pavilion

A reconstructed Buddhist temple in Japan shimmers with gold leaf.

Foliage at Kinkaku-ji temple in Kyoto, Japan, image
Photo caption
Foliage takes a colorful turn at Kinkaku-ji.


Here’s a Zen riddle: How can a Buddhist temple that’s less than 60 years old feel timeless? Japan’s famous gold-plated, three-story Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto, rebuilt in 1955 after a fanatical monk burned down the previous incarnation, answers by shining with ancient serenity.

The outside of the temple’s upper two floors is coated top to bottom in gold leaf, creating a sense of both opulence and purity. In fall, blazing red Japanese maples add even more color to the scene.

The first temple was built on the site in the 1300s, and the surrounding lush gardens have hardly changed with the passing of centuries. Also within the temple grounds, the restored Sekka-tei teahouse, originally built in the 17th century, offers a glimpse of Japanese life during the Edo period.

Visitors aren’t permitted to enter the temple itself—part of a Unesco World Heritage site—but may view it from across the aptly named Mirror Pond, an ideal place for reflection.

Photography by Sean Pavone/Alamy


This article was first published in September 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.