Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto
Nothing is as symbolic of Kyoto as Kinkaku-ji's golden reflection shimmering on the surface of the pond before it. A lot of people should be familiar with such a picture appeared on postcards and guidebook.
I would like to share my personal experience with Kinkakuji.
When I first visited Kinkakuji Temple, my expectation was not too high. I have always been a big fan of Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion) because of its wabi, Sabi and Shibui concept (*1) and enjoyed visiting there many times. But it took me a loooooong time to visit Kinkakuji finally until one of my friends visiting Japan requested Kinkakuji visit during her stay in Kyoto. I have to admit I used to associate the gold leaf covering Kinkakuji with some air of vulgar prosperity and think that's not my taste.
However, when I visited Kinkakuji finally and faced it, I stood in awe of just how gold Kinkakuji actually appeared. The pavilion appeared to float on the small pond. It was bright, of course, but in a "muted" way. Its gold leaf was clear and impressive, but not overwhelming as I expected it would be. There was a positive yet quiet aura emanating from the ancient structure...According to the Japanese aesthetics, "the aristocratic ideal of "Miyabi" demanded the elimination of anything that was absurd or vulgar and the polishing of manners, diction, and feelings to eliminate all roughness and crudity so as to achieve the highest grace." (*1) That might be something I have experienced there on that day.
The way it sits in the scenery is wonderful with beautiful green mountains in the background. The water surrounds the building and it indeed has a beautiful reflections. After visiting so many temples, you might get bored and think that this temple is just another one. You're wrong, this temple is unique.
The other elements around Kinkakuji such as silent ponds, a clean waterfall, prayerful statue and restful tea rooms blend together beautifully and contribute in the overall charm of the temple. The air there is purifying.
One note though. Prepare yourself for a great many people as it is a popular spot for tourists. The amount of tourists there can diminish a relaxed feeling one would like to experience going to temples and Japanese gardens. Please try to find a quiet corner as it is located in a large area.
*1: Read more about Wabi, Sabi and Shibui here. Nice article.