The Kinkaku, or Golden Pavilion, is a three-storey building that is coated, inside and out, with gold leaf. Each story represents a different architectural style (Heian, Kamakura and Muromachi). The pavilion was constructed in 1397, by the third Ashikaga shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. The structure is located on Kitayama, a hill in the southwestern region of Kyoto.

In 1407, the pavilion was set to become a Buddhist temple. Two additional structures completed a new Buddhist complex, which was renamed Rokuon. The other two buildings included a three-story pagoda and a seven-story pagoda.

Then during the Onin civil wars, however, the Rokuon was destroyed, quickly rebuilt, and then destroyed again in 1567, leaving only the Kinkaku standing. Later, in 1950, a Buddhist monk set fire to the Kinkaku, and it was burned to the ground. In 1955, the pavilion was reconstructed, using approximately 48 kilograms of gold.

Today, the Golden Pavilion is owned by a Zen Buddhist sect.