Kyoto's Golden Pavilion, or Kinkakuji, is among the most visited tourist sites in Japan.
Especially during the fall, when the leaves turn color, the temple is packed with visitors.
On a recent blustery afternoon in early January, there were far fewer tourists than at almost any other time of the year.
The current golden pavilion was built only in 1955. The reason is that a mad priest affiliated with the Zen temple set the previous building on fire in 1950, burning it to the ground.
This story has been recounted in the famous Yukio Mishima novel - The Temple of the Golden Pavilion - and a later film based on the same work.
In the 1220s, the area that now houses the grounds of the temple was occupied by a villa that belonged to Kintsune Saionji.
During the Muromachi Period, Muso Soseki (1275 - 1371) founded what is now Kinkakuji Temple as a part of the Shokoku-ji branch of Rinzai Zen.
The temple was first built, in 1397, as a retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. His son later converted the building into a Zen temple.
And, like much of Kyoto, it was destroyed by fire several times during the Ōnin War.
Kinkakuji was designated a World Heritage site in 1994.
Bus #101 or #205 from Kyoto Station, #59 from the downtown Shijo Kawaramachi area.
Tel: 075 461 0013
1 Kinkaku-ji-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto.
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Friday, January 09, 2009