Autumn comes early and in a blaze of color in Kyoto, Japan, with the city’s many deciduous trees turning to strikingly vivid shades of gold and deep orange. It is a serene and glorious setting, backed by soft hills. It is also just outside a city packed with temples—some of the most noteworthy in all of Japan. One temple, however, stands out among the many—Kinkaku-ji (or the Temple of the Golden Pavilion), just outside the main city area. It was originally constructed in the 1390s for the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. Its gold-leaf façade shimmers in the autumn sunlight (and a softer shade of gold mirrors the temple in the glistening lake that fronts it).
What visitors see today, however, is a charming, glittering-with-gold-leaf replica of its Medieval predecessor, which was tragically burned to the ground in 1950 by an emotionally disturbed Buddhist monk. The temple was rebuilt in 1955, and its golden façade was reborn, thicker, brighter, and perhaps a bit sturdier than the original. Visitors are not allowed inside, but it is the graceful architecture and the lovely setting that makes this a must-see destination. Read Yukio Mishima’s 1956 novel “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion” before you go.