Thursday, February 26, 2009


Ask a Japanese person "What is the most famous historical building in Kyoto?" and most people would definitely answer "Kinkaku-ji!"

People know Kinkaku-ji as the famous shrine known for its walls covered completely in beaten gold. The golden building is actually called Rokuonji. There are the pond, surrounding trees, and the waterfall behind the shrine creating a beautiful view with the golden shrine. As you may have guessed, the area was designated as a World Heritage site in 1994.

Kinkaku-ji was presented to Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in 1937 by the Saionji family. While in power, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu used to do all of his political work here. However, in 1950, a shocking event occurred! Known as the Great Fire of Kinkaku-ji, a 21 year-old ascetic monk deliberately set fire to the national treasure. As a result, the whole shrine and several other national treasures, such as a wooden statue of Yoshimitsu and six other cultural assets, were burnt down. The Kinkaku-ji that we know today was rebuilt five years later in 1955. Sadly, while it is no longer listed as a national treasure, it is still valued as a cultural asset to Japan.

Only the second and third floors of Rokuonji are covered in gold, and a golden phoenix stands tall on the roof of the building. Although you can only look at the shrine from a distance, it is a pleasure to see the building standing in the middle of a beautiful pond with its reflections shining in the water. To enter, admission is JPY400 (adults) and JPY300 (for middle school and elementary school students). Never leave Kyoto without visiting Kinkaku-ji - this historical site is definitely worth seeing!

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