Kinkaku-ji which translates to ‘The Temple of the Golden Pavilion’ is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan. One of the most visually stunning buildings surrounded by some of the most beautiful gardens in a place known for gardens, it’s no wonder it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Japan.


A World Heritage site dating back to 1397, the original villa was purchased and transformed into the complex it is known today. 40 feet high and surrounded by lakes and gardens, as a photographer, this is a place you are going to need some serious amount of time, memory cards and/or, film!

Chris and I visited late in the afternoon, hoping to get some nice sunset photos with the sun low in the sky and the golden light reflecting off the side of the incredible building. Sadly for photography, this temple is almost always packed with tourists, so getting a clear shot or trying to set up a spot near the pond was a tough task. We did find however, staying until the very last minute of closing time that it emptied out a lot and we were able to be the last people walking through the gardens.

The building is quite distinct in design on its three floors, incorporating three styles of architecture; shinden, samurai and Zen. I really enjoyed finding that depending on the lens and your position to the temple, very different images could be found of the temple that highlighted all these amazing details.

The gardens are set in a traditional strolling style where it’s design carries the visitor from one location to the next, offering different viewing points that sometimes highlight the plants in the foreground, or the temple and surrounding landscape further away. Vantage points are strategically placed to showcase the incredible building often framed beautifully with the manicured trees, rocks and mossy garden beds below.

Capturing the reflections off the pond and the small dotted rocks that are intended to represent sailboats anchored in the night – there really is no bad angle at the Golden Pavilion.

I took both my Leica MP240 with a number of lenses, though focused mostly using the fantastic 21mm Super Elmar (read my review HERE) and my recently purchased for this trip, Hasselblad XPAN or Fuji TX-1 with the 45mm lens.

The XPAN images I shot on Kodak Ektar 100 – a film that I don’t really use enough to be honest, but love the rich colors and warmth it produces which really added to the golden hues of the temple. The XPAN (review HERE), as always, seems to produce some of my favorite images. The wide cinematic format along with the look of the film, for me, just can’t be beat!

Japan is one of those places that I have been lucky enough to travel to for both work and vacations. When so much of the world starts to feel homogenized, the same shops and restaurants popping up everywhere, it offers a location that is so totally unique and different. The high tech mixed with a reverence for its history makes for such a wonderful combination. I really can’t wait to go back again!