The golden pavilion
There are a lot of small idols in the garden
Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, is perhaps Kyoto’s most famous landmark. It was built in 1397 by a shogun as a villa; his son converted it to a Zen temple. It has burned down several times, the most recent being by a monk in 1950. It is a magnificent structure, set in large and well-designed reflecting pond and succeeded by a strolling garden. Despite the large numbers of people visiting, the garden is still peaceful and calming. This is definitely worth visiting more than once; I almost went back through a second time immediately after the first. I did return the following day because that day had better light for photography; it was just as excellent as the first time.

If you arrive in the mid-morning you will probably find bus-loads of school children visiting Kyoto. I arrived in the late morning the second day, and found the crowds substantially less. Excellent photography is possible even with the crowds, since the two main spots to photograph the pavilion present an a across the pond and therefore unadulterated with tourists. During rush hours you may need to wait for the groups of school girls to finish taking pictures of themselves for a few minutes, but it is very doable.

The view of the pavilion faces north (i.e. the pavilion faces south), so afternoon is probably the best time to photograph, but morning worked ok for me. Cloudy days will reduce the shadows from the eves (hence my return the second day).

Kinkakuji is reachable by the Kyoto sightseeing bus, but not by train. It is about a 10 - 15 minute walk from Ryouanji, but I would not recommend walking from another location. It is about a 30 minute bicycle ride from SandalWood and the Hankyu Saiin station.

Kinkakuji’s web site has some decently sized images, some additional images, and a webcam image. Keep in mind that Japan is about 12 hours ahead of the U.S.; the webcam will be most interesting in the evening...

The back side of the pavilion
All the people are where the picture-taking location is