Probably, it will be rude to say that there are many attractions in Kyoto. Actually, these are not attractions, but art masterpieces, outliving centuries and nestling all around Kyoto. The whole history of the nation is contained in one city, as in the ancient vessel, splashing its drops of history on those, who want to see and touch its miracles.
One of these miracles, steeped in the history and astonishing the viewers with the beauty and royal spirit, is the Gold Palace. The Gold Palace or the Kinkakuji Temple was built by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu for his retirement in 1394. Yoshimitsu wanted to have an elegant retreat, from which he would continue his government after his retirement. During Yoshimitsu's life, the Gold Palace was known as Kitayama-dono or Kitayama palace. Due to Yoshimitsu's retirement during his political prime, the Kinkaku was the site of joyful parties and the Kitayama palace was the influencing center of Japanese politics. The last wish of Yoshimitsu was that the site would become a temple after his death. Therefore, after the Shogun's death the Gold Palace started serving as a center of Zen learning and as a major pilgrimage center.
The centerpiece of the Gold Palace is the Kinkaku or a golden pavilion that embraces three distinct architectural styles. The bottom floor, with wooden lattice shutters, is in the Shinden Zukuri style, commonly used in the residences of Heian courtiers. The second floor, with sliding doors, reproduces the style of a warrior residence. The top floor, with its arch windows, reflects the style of the Zen monastery.
The current structure is a reproduction, built in 1955, since the original palace was burnt down by a deranged monk in 1950. The reproduction is the exact copy of the original and today the Gold Palace stands as an important tourist and pilgrimage site in Kyoto housing sacred relics of the Buddha.
The Palace, covered in thick gold leaves, glitters even under a rainy sky and it seems that it is floating above its reflection in a pond, the name of which is Mirror pond. The pond contains many large and small islands with stones, a symbolic and traditional decoration of Japanese gardens. For instance, the small stone pagoda on one of the islands is called Hakuia-no-tsuka (a mound in the memory of a white snake). On the way to the exit, there is the stone Fudo-myoc that is enshrined as a guardian.
The Gold Palace is considered the most famous and beautiful among all Zen temples of Kyoto, but there are a lot more historical sites to see.
One of them is Kyoto Omiya Palace that was built in the 18th-19th century. Today, it is used for Imperial stopovers during tours of the provinces and as a place, where state guests can stopover.
Prince Toshihito, the first generation of the Princes of Katsura, built the Katsura Imperial Villa in the seventeenth century. The garden of Katsura Imperial Villa is known as the best in Japan.
The Shugakuin Imperial Villa was erected for the retired Emperor Gomizuno-o in the middle of the 17th century and has one of Japan's most famous gardens, making use of the surrounding landscape in the design. It consists of upper, middle and lower detached villas.
If you visit Japan for the aim of deep learning about its history, there is no place better than Kyoto, a home to the Imperial palaces, villas and temples. If you visit Japan for the aim of having an amusing vacation, there is again no place better than Kyoto, a home to Japanese ancient and modern traditions, culture and arts.