Kinkakuji is widely known as the Golden Pavilion and is a three-story Zen Buddhist temple in northern Kyoto. Built during the 13th century, Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji (Silver Pavillion) were originally meant to be aristocrat villas for the Ashikaga shoguns. Now, the building is also known by the name Rokuonji.
Being a Zen Temple, Kinkakuji houses several important Buddhist relics and is a sacred place for the Rinzai-sect of Japanese Buddhism. Unlike its counterpart Ginkakuji, Kinkakuji's exterior is actually plated with gold. Each floor of the temple conveys a different architectural style — the first-floor being of Shinden style, the second-floor being Bukke style, and the third-floor being of Chinese Zen style. As a result, it became one of the most photogenic temples in all of Kyoto.
The temple building used to be the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu's retirement villa. After his passing in 1408, he willed the building to be given to the Rinzai sect to serve as a Zen temple. Its silver counterpart Ginkakuji was built for a similar reason — as a retirement villa for Yoshimitsu's grandson, Ashikaga Yoshimasa. The Kinkakuji temple grounds used to consist of several other buildings, but have since unfortunately burnt down during fires and destruction that raged during the Onin War in the 1400s. The building you see standing today was also rebuilt in 1955.