kinkaku-ji

12Nov05
After seeing the Miroku Bosatsu at Koryu-ji, J. and I took the bus to Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion), which is officially known as Rokuon-ji. Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺) was built by Yoshimitsu, the third Ashikaga shogun, who officially abdicated at the age of 37 (in 1394) in order to enter the priesthood. Kinkaku-ji was originally his retirement villa, but after his death it was converted to a Zen temple at his request. The current building is a replica of the original, which was burned to the ground in 1950 by a young monk who was overcome by an obsession for it (this event is the subject of Yukio Mishima’s novel The Golden Pavillion). It was rebuilt in 1955 and the gold leaf, which formerly covered only the top portion, was extended all the way to the ground.
The first view of Kinkaku-ji that you get when you emerge from the forested pathway is from across the Kyoko-chi, or Mirror Pond. We arrived at Kinkaku-ji late in the day and the light was already beginning to make its way to evening. Because of this the pond was perfectly reflective, mirroring the gold of the temple in a deep blue-green that was approaching dusk. We joined the small crowds of people congregating at the viewing area to look at the double image of the temple and take photographs. After this the path leads you behind the temple which is framed with beautifully articulated pines. You also get a closer look at the Chinese phoenix which sits at the top of Kinkaku-ji. After that it’s up the side of the mountain past a perfectly framed view of a stone pagoda on the island of a small pond. Apparently this pagoda is known as Hakuja-no-tsuka, “the mound in memory of the white snake.” At the top of the path is a famous tea house with a beautiful thatched roof.
Of course, no incredibly famous temple complex is without its gift shop, and on our way out we bought some Kinkaku-ji tea cookies (with imprints of the temple and gold leaf flakes) for my neighbors, the Takases.
The lake side of the Golden Pavilion.
Here’s a view of Kinkaku-ji from around the back, near the entrance to the temple building (it’s not actually an island temple, though it looks like one).
A stone pagoda located on the hillside behind Kinkaku-ji.
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