Kinkakuji, or the Golden Pavilion, in snow

This photo was taken on February 2nd of 2005.

Kinkakuji was constructed in 1397 as one of the buildings of the residence for Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358-1408), the third Shogun of the Ashikaga Shogunate. This residence was called Kitayama-dono, or the Residence in the Northern Mountain, at the time. When Yoshimitsu was the ruler of Japan, this residence was considered to be another palace by samurai and court nobles even though there was an imperial palace in the central part of Kyoto where the Emperor resided; Yoshimitsu surpassed the Emperor in authority at the time.

Some historians argue that Yoshimitsu had a plan to make his second son the emperor of the country who would govern religions and court nobles and at the same time to make his first son the next Shogun who would govern politics and samurai. However, Yoshimitsu died before realizing his plan.

After Yoshimitsu's death, all of the buildings but the Golden Pavilion were dismantled by his first son, the 4th Shogun Yoshimochi, who disliked sharing his power with his younger brother. The Golden pavilion was converted into a Buddhist temple. The younger brother, Yoshitsugu, losing his power, tried to rebel against Yoshimochi, but failing in the rebellion he was killed in 1418.

The original building of Kinkakuji had been a National Treasure of Japan. However, a trainee monk set fire to the building and it was burnt down to the ground in 1950. After setting the fire, the monk committed suicide on the hill at the back of the building. This incident stimulated the creation of several novels and films. The most famous one would be Mishima Yukio's work, 'Kinkakuji (The Temple of the Golden Pavilion)'.

The present Kinkakuji is a reconstruction in 1955. However, since gold lieves of standard thickness were used at the time to cover the building, it became messy-looking after several decades. By the early 1980s, the undercoat of brown urushi, or Japanese laquar, was seen from the outside in many parts of the outer walls. So large-scale repairs of the building were made in 1987 using gold lieves of 5 x thickness that weighed 20 tons in total. Thus the glitter of the present building would remain for centuries this time.