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Most visitors to Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion, in Kyoto, are there to see the gilded roof of the landmark’s namesake. But we were just as interested in the green roofs that cover many of the outdoor waiting areas, keeping them nice and cool in a town notorious for its horribly muggy summers.

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Topped with one of the most spectacular green roofs in the world today, the ACROS building in Fukuoka, Japan is even more impressive when you’re standing right next to it (or on top of it for that matter!). The stepped design and planted surface keeps the building cool and acts as a climbable park for the office’s lucky employees.

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A green-roofed sign we spotted within the walls of Nijo Castle, the former home of the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. In this case, the roof works to absorb rainwater to protect the sign below.

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This ivy-wrapped structure in Osaka, Japan is green on the inside and out. The planted walls keep the building, which serves as a bike parking garage, from overheating and it’s a great encouragement to get people to bike to the congested city center too.

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This vegetated roofed hut, also located in the Kinkaku-ji compound, insulates the small room within. This super thick style of thatching is common in old buildings in Japan but it can also be seen in many other places in the world.

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We’ve seen a lot of planted walls and roofs in our time but this was probably the first time we ever came across planted steps! Located in the bustling Osaka city center, this clandestine pop of color was hidden until we actually began climbing the stairs and is a smart way to soak up rainwater runoff in places where there is not much room for greenery.

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Osaka is certainly no slouch when it comes to green roofs. In fact, from our hotel room window, we were able to spot five – yes five! – vegetated roofs. This one was one of the only ones with people on it, and they seemed to be enjoying the outdoor space thoroughly.

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This tiny but effective green roof we spotted in Kyoto is not only a cheery way to spruce up a boring bus stop, but it also serves to curb stormwater runoff which can pollute waterways.