Kyoto was Japan’s capital for over a thousand years, and that amount of history and energy can’t be looked over just like that, let alone disappear. Remnants of its past glory can be found everywhere, thus creating a city that has a high level of modern-day vibe as well as romantic prudence of the past.
Kyoto has one of the most stunning UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world, concentrated in one place. It also has a lot of modern art, cafes and general locations that the modern day man thrives in. That is what creates the magic of Kyoto in the 21st century. To fully capture the essence of Kyoto is to spend days both in the past and in the present.
Visiting Kinkaku-ji, or as the westerners call it The Golden Pavilion is a must-do, whatever the circumstances.
The season doesn’t play a difference, it’s stunning and soul-captivating whether it’s covered by snow or surrounded by a lush green background.
It sort of became a symbol of Kyoto, and one doesn’t have to wonder why. Just one look at its golden reflection shimmering across the pond before it will tell you why.
This is not the original pavilion; it is a gold leaf-coated reconstruction, finished in 1955. The original 14th century Kinkaku-ji was torched in 1950 by one of the temple’s monks.
After the gold, comes the silver, although Ginkaku-ji (The Silver Pavilion) hasn’t got any silver on it whatsoever, although it was planned to be coated in silver leaf. It was built in 1480’s as a retirement home for the then shogun. Some Scholars believe that he ran out of money before he could finish it the way he planned to.
When the shogun died a few years after that, the pavilion was converted into a Zen temple, and it remains in that function to this day. The pavilion itself isn’t as breathtaking as its golden counterpart, but the surroundings make up for it.
If you decide to visit Kyoto, your next historical site stop should be Ryoan-ji temple and its dry rock garden. No one knows who designed it nor what is the meaning behind it. There are 15 rocks scattered across it’s expanse of raked white gravel.
Scholars have a disagreement over the possible meaning; some say that it represents a tiger carrying a cub across the stream, some say that it’s the sky dotted with clouds and some that it depicts an ocean accented with small islands. The most interesting theory is that the rocks form a map of Chinese Zen monasteries.