Glistening in the northeast pocket of Kyoto, the Zen temple Kinkakuji was the grand retirement villa of an ancient shogun. This golden pavilion was originally built as an example of the wealthy aristocratic Kitayama culture some 600 years ago, each floor representing a different style of architecture and the top two covered in signature gold.
You can enjoy a quiet moment in the resident tea house after viewing the temple across the pond, or find the streets surrounding filled with Japanese-style coffee shops (kissaten) and street stall cafes selling matcha sweets, parfaits, and snack foods on a stick. There are lovely souvenir shops and a specialist in bean sweets, but for a lick of luxury, stores near Kinkakuji serve ice cream with edible gold-leaf! Leading in and around Kinkakuji, restaurants selling every Japanese food from conveyor-belt sushi to teishoku lunch sets with local ingredients. Not far down the road, the temple of Ryoanji and its famous rock garden presents a contemplative attempt at enlightenment, but only for those who can view all 13 rocks formations simultaneously. Shining and surrounded by a satisfying selection of souvenirs and foods, Kinkakuji is Kyoto’s golden delight.