Kyoto tales: Temple of Golden Pavilion is magnificent

By Melissa Masatani, Staff Writer

Visiting Kyoto, it’s hard to tell what century you’re in. The former imperial capital of Japan has a dizzying mix of new and old, embracing the future while preserving the past. For tourists, it’s a can’t-miss city if you want to get a sense of both traditional and modern Japan.

The shinkansen, or bullet train, from Tokyo into the city was a quick and comfortable ride straight out of a science-fiction movie. The Kyoto Station was equally modern, with seemingly endless escalators and seemingly choreographed crowds of commuters rushing to the train platforms.

Since our stop in Kyoto was short, we headed straight for the city’s most famous sight: Kinkaku-ji. Commonly known as the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, the Zen Buddhist temple is known for its pavilion covered in gold foil, but as you walk up to the gates, only the top of the gold phoenix peeks over the walls, offering a hint of what waits inside.

The initial entry is magnificent, with a pond providing a mirrored reflection of the pavilion surrounded by a well-tended garden. While most tourists only have time to take a quick photo before being shuttled off to the next stop, it is worth taking a few extra minutes while walking the path through the temple grounds.

The foliage is magnificent in the fall, with the trees adding an extra layer of beauty to an already picturesque scene. And if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a lull between tour groups to fully appreciate the World Cultural Heritage Site.

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