If you're on a scheduled tour & this is included, okay - it's a pretty gold-leafed building on a lake.
If you're looking for a substantial site to spend time at, this isn't it.
If you have limited time in Kyoto, there are better (and closer)places to go. I have no idea why this is ranked higher than other sites in every book travel site. meh.
My husband and I do our own itineraries. We had 2 full days to see they key sights of Kyoto. We went here to see something special and spend some time walking around the site, and after paying our 500yen (400?) and walking leisurely for 7 minutes, the whole thing was OVER. Here's how it goes:
Pay fee, get ticket. Take a few steps & get put into a photo corral area with everyone else (TONS of people). Look at golden pavilion, take a few pics. Then you're allowed to leave corral and walk for half a minute 3/4 around to back of building. It's not open so you cant go in it. Windows aren't open so you can't see in it. You see a gold-leafed plain outside. Climb a low hill, about ten steps, look at a pond with fountain, walk 5 more steps, there' s a rustic wooden building that you're told is a tea house of yore. Take 7 steps down, there's a trinket hut (mobbed) , the bathrooms and modern tea cafe w ice ream. Take 10 steps & you're in a village of trinket souvenir huts made to look like part of the "theme park". But it's not ... You unknowingly have walked OUT of the attraction now (no sign or gate to indicate this) but you'll know it if you turn on your heel to hit that bathroom that's 5 feet behind you and find an old official lady telling you there is absolutely NO re-entry to the park. Huh?? That's all there was to it.
In short, if you're going to spend the time & energy to get to this place on your own (not as part of a tour), unless youREALLY have to see a 2-story gold leafed building, I'd skip it.
Well worth the effort instead: Nijo castle w/squeaky floors and climbing Fushimi
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