Captivating Kansai: The Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji)

Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto, Japan

We get off the train in Kyoto and after a brief moment of consulting our map and turning in circles, we walk over to the stop for our bus. There's already crowd. One bus comes. It's packed but a few from our crowd manage to get on and we shuffle forward. The next bus is supposed to come in fifteen minutes. We wait getting jostled and elbowed as more and more people push into the waiting area trying to find a safe space from the wind. The bus is late and we're getting cranky in the crowd.

"It looks like it's about two and a half miles, do you want to just walk?"

"Yeah, let's just walk, this bus is late and we might not even be able to get on"

I walk a lot every day but we walk even more when we're traveling, you get to experience so much more of the city that way.

The wind gets stronger and I try to wrap even more of myself in my pashmina. It helps a little and we search for the sunny parts of the street which helps more. This part of Kyoto doesn't seem to be too exciting. A bit industrial, some run down buildings, a huge baseball equipment store and a couple of cafes. This does not seem to be a walk where we're destined to find some hidden gem of a shop or bakery. Eventually we find ourselves on smaller residential streets as we close in on the temple. The sun is coming out and I can see green hills.

We merge into the crowd and by our tickets. Immediately past the gate we're directed to a dead end area on the left where everyone is taking photos.

"Well, that's just outrageous," Dan exclaims.

Which is, I think, an accurate statement about any temple covered in gold leaf.

Dan admires some koi and watches ducks diving in the pond while I snap my pictures. The pavilion might be outrageous, but the landscaped lake and the leaves just beginning to turn are stunning.

We leave the photo area and continue on the path around the lake. We seem to have arrived between two bus loads of people so we take our time, not eager to catch up to the crowd in front of us. I join the other travelers trying to throw coins into the Buddha's bowl but the smallest Japanese coins are incredibly light and easily misdirected by the wind. I manage to get in one and Dan takes his turn.

The bus load behind us is beginning to catch up so we hurry up the hill to another small lake and pagoda. The grounds aren't very big but already the crowds are starting to thin. Maybe this is another instance where people just take their pictures and leave?

We round a corner and suddenly have a view of the temple and the phoenix on its roof. It's still outrageous.

Down around the hill and we find ourselves in the souvenir area, while a man tried to tempt us with bottles of sake filled with gold flakes, I find myself eyeing the bowls of hot matcha, it's still quite chilly in the shade. We pay what is probably too much money for bright green matcha in a red lacquered bowl and a small mochi like sweet with a mold of the pavilion and a small piece of gold leaf. I've now warmed up enough to head on and sample many different type of yatsuhashi and other confections but even though they're all delicious, they seem a bit pricier here than we've seen other places so we don't buy any. I've now warmed up enough from the tea and the walking that I'm ready to finish our visit by stopping by the pavilion I saw on our way in advertising soft serve. I opt for black sesame and it's both the blackest and creamiest black sesame ice cream I've ever tried. Completely worth getting a bit cold again.

Black Sesame Ice Cream. The Golden Pavilion, Kyoto, Japan.

Kinkaku-ji isn't near much, so while I finish my ice cream, we double check our route, leave the park and head towards downtown Kyoto for a more substantial lunch.

Kinkaku-ji is open daily 9-5. It doesn't have a dedicated website so for more information or suggestions how to get try here.