Autumn: Oct - Nov

The best time to visit Kinkaku-ji temple(Golden pavilion) in 2024


Kyoto, a city steeped in history and culture, is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes. Among its many attractions, there are a lot of beautiful gardens that captivate visitors from around the world. However, standing out as a true masterpiece among them is the Kinkaku-ji temple, commonly known as the Golden Pavilion.

Kinkaku-ji is Zen temple in northern Kyoto city, famous as golden pavilion, whose structure is the three-story building covered in gold leaf and a golden phoenix is on the top. Usually, it’s compered with Silver pavilion (Ginkakuji) which is also Zen temple in eastern Kyoto city.

The best view is the shining Golden pavilion with a huge overlooking pond(Kyokochi), is 6600㎡ with 10 islands. It’s one of the absolute highlights of Kyoto, you should not miss.
However, it’s crowded with tourist and moreover good time is very short.
Here are information about Kinkaku-ji temple.


Entrance gate in Kinkaku-ji
Entrance gate in Kinkaku-ji

Originally, Kinkaku-ji(Golden pavilion) began in 1397 when third shogun of  the Muromachi period, Yoshimitsu Ashikaga acquired a villa from the Kamakura period courtier, Kintune Saionji and constructed the mountain villa known as Kitayama-dono. From this villa arose the “Kitayama Culture”, a new culture that fused aristocratic and samurai cultures. While it is influenced by the Zen emphasis on simplicity, it is characterized by elegance and splendor due to the strong influence of the courtly culture. 

The official name of Kinkaku-ji is “Rokuonji temple(鹿苑寺)”, founded by the Zen master Kokushi Musou and taking letters from two characters from Yoshimitsu’s dharma name “Rokuonin-dono(鹿苑院殿)”. In 1950, the building was completely burned down due to arson by a university student who was then an apprentice monk. Using architectural plans from a previously planned disassembly and repair, the temple was reconstructed in 1955 to a state close to its original construction. The symbolic Golden Pavilion, covered entirely in gold leaf, was thus restored.

The best seasons


The Golden pavilion photo taken by Lco

The best season is winter when the golden pavilion is blanketed in snow. A bright contrast of snow white and gold makes the more impressive scenes. The overlooking pond and the gardens also great to make the golden pavilion stand out : the red pine trees in the lower right of the photo, which is a reddish-brown bark and soft needle-shaped leaves. In the lower left, there are the black pines in the rocky islands, representing a legendary land of Chinese mythology “Mount Penglai” where immortals lived. 

However, the daytime temperatures and sunlights melt the snow in a couple of days whose beautiful sight was in early January and last February 2023.  If It’s better to check the weather forecast before planning.

After entering the grounds of Kinkaku-ji, travelers should remain cautious. It is undoubtedly a beautiful winter sight to behold, but be wary of the crowds, even during the off-season. Visitors have to wait for about 10 minutes to get to the front of the crowd to take photos.


The golden pavilion with maple trees in fall season
The golden pavilion with maple trees in fall season

Visiting Kinkaku-ji during the autumn season is particularly rewarding as the maple leaves turn a vibrant red and the ground-covering moss takes on a lush emerald green hue. Around Golden pavilion, there are various types of maple trees( Acer palmatum, Acer amoenum and Acer palmatum var.matsumurae), which change color from mid-November to early December in the latter half of autumn. Visiting during this period, you can see breathtakingly beautiful scenery.

Gardeners often undertake the pruning of garden trees in this season to ensure the gardens are at their most beautiful when visitor numbers are at their peak. Notably, the garden is home to historic natural monuments, such as the “Rikushu no Matsu,” a Japanese white pine shaped like a ship, and the imposing yew tree planted by the entrance gate, both of which receive meticulous pruning.

Spots within the grounds of Kinkaku-ji

Historical Tea House Building “Sekkatei”

Tea house "Sekkatei" in kinkaku-ji
Tea house “Sekkatei” in kinkaku-ji

After you walk up the mountain trail, you’ll find Sekkatei. This place was fixed up during the Edo period by Horin Josho when the Golden Pavilion needed repairs. The tea master Kanamori Sowa told Josho to build Sekkatei for Emperor Go-Mizunoo.

The teahouse is built in a simple style that Sowa liked, and it’s called Sekkatei, which means “Evening Sun Pavilion,” because you can see the sunset over the Golden Pavilion really well from there. On above picture, an old nandina tree is used for the central floor pillar, and on the right side, there is a unique shelf made with alternating bush clover roots and tips, with a plum branch favored by bush warblers placed in the center. 

Tea House “Kinkaku-ji Fudo Tyadokoro”

Tea house” Kinkaku-ji Fudo Tyadokoro”

After passing Sekkatei , you will see the tea house” Kinkaku-ji Fudo Tyadokoro” on the right side. Inside the tea room, tatami mats are laid out, and there are red felt seats and umbrellas outside. You can enjoy matcha and sweets, and take a break there. The operating hours are the same as Kinkaku-ji, from 9:00 to 17:00.

Shingon sect temple “Fudodo”

Shingon sect temple "Fudodo" in Kinkaku-ji
Shingon sect temple “Fudodo” in Kinkaku-ji

At the end of the route, there is a temple called Fudo-do. It existed before the construction of Kinkaku-ji and is said to enshrine the principal deity, the stone of Skt. Acala “Fudo Myo-o”, which was carved by Kobo Daishi Kukai, the founder of the Shingon sect, buddhism.

How to avoid crowds

In all seasons, Kinkaku-ji is crowded with tourist to take magically photos. However, a little planning helps you to visit easily. Here is some tips to get there and avoid crowds

Date & time

  • Visiting during weekdays is less crowded than weekend and holiday .
  • Kinkaku-ji opens at 9 am, so it is advisable to visit a few minutes before then. Since the golden pavilion faces east, it appears more radiant in the morning when it is illuminated by the sunlight.
  • The temple closes at 5 pm, so it is also recommended to visit at 4 pm, one hour before closing. You can enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere, different from the morning.

How to get to Kinkaku-ji temple

  • Taking  trains is more likely to get you there on time than using bus or taxi. It’s 20 minute walking from nearest station “Kitano hakubaityo” to Kinkakuji temple. Even if it is snowy days, trains in Kyoto city run safely.
  • Using buses and taxies is also convenient, If it’s not high season; except March, April, November, December.
    Many buses depart from Kyoto Station and stop at Kinkakuji machi, which is closest bus stop to Kinkaku-ji .
  • The cycling is also good that the roads to Kinkaku-ji are well maintained, there are many rental bicycle stores and a bicycle parking lot in front of Kinkakuji Temple.
  • Other popular choices are to stay at a hotel or inn near Kinkakuji, northern Kyoto City(Kita district). There are many hot spots: Ryoanji temple, Daitokuji temple and Kitano tenmangu shrine. A one-day walking tour of those tourist attractions also popular.


Open hours
9:00 – 17:00

Regular holiday

Adults: 500 yen
Primary and Middle school students : 300 yen

075-461-0013(Japanese only)

1 Kinkakuji-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto 603-8361 Japan

Link and resources

・Official site