The Snowscape in Kyoto Representing Japan: Snow Covered Kinkakuji

In this article, we introduce the scenery of “Rokuonji”, also known as Kinkakuji, one of the most popular temples in Kyoto, after a heavy snowfall. Please enjoy this very rare view.

This is the 4th entry in our Kyoto Snowscape series.

When it comes to winter in Kyoto, nothing is better than Kinkakuji covered with winter snow! This scenery is so beautiful that it has become famous all over the world.

In this article, we introduce the snowscape of Kinkakuji, located in Kinkaku-cho, in Kita Ward of Kyoto City. We visited the temple on February 14th, 2014. All these photos were taken on that day.

In Japan, it is extremely rare to see snow in urban areas like Kyoto. Even having light snowfall once a year is rare enough, but it snowed a lot from the end of 2014 to the beginning of 2015. In my articles, I introduce many beautiful snowscapes of Kyoto, where various shrines and temples are covered with snow. However, this snowy Kinkakuji is definitely one of the most eye-catching scenes.

What is Kinkakuji?

The real name of Kinkakuji is Rokuonji Temple. “Kinkaku”, the gold building you often see, is actually just a part of Rokuonji Temple, which is called “Shariden”. (In this article, we’ll call it Kinkakuji) Kinkakuji is registered as one of the World Heritage Sites, and it is one of the most popular sightseeing spots in Kyoto, which attracts tourists from all over the world.

Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the third general of the Muramachi Period, built a villa called Kitayamaden (current Kinkaku) in 1397, which was how this temple started. That is now what we call Kinkakuji. The name of the temple, Rokuonji, was named after Ashikaga Yoshimitsu’s Hogo (a name given to those who enter the way of Buddhism), which was “Rokuonindon”.

After that, the Onin War, an extremely big civil war, broke out in 1467. This war lasted for 10 years, and it devastated Kinkakuji. However, it is said that the temple was successfully restored when a great monk, who the generals like Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu relied on, became its priest.

The original Kinkaku was burned down because someone set fire to the temple in 1950. Many valuable statues of Buddha were lost when this happened. In 1955, the temple was rebuilt. In 1987, more renovations took place: the repainting of lacquer, repapering of the gold leaf, repair of the ceiling painting, and so on. Although the original Kinkakuji was registered as a Japan National Treasure, the current Kinkakuji is not.

(Reference: “Zouhoban Kyoto Kankou Bunka Kentei Shiken Koshiki Text Book”)

Let’s Explore Snowy Kinkakuji

This is Funakataishi Stone covered with snow. The kanji characters for “Funakataishi” mean “stone shaped as a ship”, and the stone is shaped exactly like a ship. It creates an amazing scenery with this tree by its side. The snowy scenery accompanies the beautiful green in spring and the red leaves in autumn.

Snowy Kinkaku!

Finally, here it is: the snowy Kinkaku (Shariden). This is the famous scene.

Kinkaku standing alone in a white world, represents not only Kyoto but the entirety of Japan.

This is a closeup of the snowy Kinkaku.

The gold color looks even more beautiful in the white snow.

This is Anmintaku covered with snow. Anmintaku is an elevated mountain stream, which is 50m away from Kinkakuji. It is the water source of Kyokochi Pond, on which Kinkakuji sits. Even among other places in Kinkakuji, Anmintaku has a unique, lush aura about it.

This is a view of the Kinkakuji snowscape from above.

Kinkakuji, wrapped in shiny goldleaf, is beautiful enough on its own. However, an even deeper mystery and beauty is discovered when it is covered by white snow, don’t you think?

For more Kyoto snowscape articles like Ginkakuji, often introduced as the twin of Kinkakuji, and more, please see below!

I’ve written the series of Snowy Kyoto, so please refer below if you are interested!

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Kyoto is the best for me, I believe Kyoto has all things of this world. I live in Kyoto, so I'll introduce a number of local information like shrines, temples, Teien(Japanese traditional gardens), Kouyou(autumn leaves), beautiful scenery of four seasons and Kyoto gourmet and so on...