Traveling is both escape and search to see what there is to see; to live in another’s world. And sometimes – when we are lucky – to understand exactly what the human being is capable of. The Golden Temple in Kyoto shows us human potential.
Kinkaku-ji is one of the transcendental places on the planet; where the bar for your understanding of human capability rises. Everything else that has come before is simply … inferior. Imagine what the world would be like, if we all had the will of the Japanese?
The Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺, Golden Pavilion in Kyoto, Japan) is, at its simplest, a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect. Not so simple is the idea that it is completely covered in gold leaf, and perches in the middle of a large pond.
Built in 1397 , the Rokuon-ji (Deer Garden Temple) was a retirement pavilion for the shōgun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. Following Yoshimitsu’s death in 1408, was a conversion to a Zen temple. Thus the renaming to Kinkaku-ji.
During the Onin war (1467-77) the other buildings and garden were destroyed by fire, while the pavilion was spared. The Golden Pavillion gloriously glowed in the sun for the next 500 years; until 1950 when Hayashi Yoken, a mentally ill monk burned it own. Kinkaku-ji was re-built in 1955 to a degree of perfection which saw the entire site declared UNESCO World-Heritage worthy in 1994.
While the Golden Pavilion does dominate, there is more to see! If you keep wandering you will encounter the Hojo – the head priest’s former living quarters. Be sure to keep an eye out for the Fusuma – beautifully painted sliding doors.
The gardens are especially lovely and a must wander. They are of the original design of 1397. Marvel at that for a while!
The grounds at Kinkaku-ji were built by the Shogun to illustrate the harmony between heaven and earth. Basing his ideas on the descriptions of the Western Paradise of the Buddha Amida.
The garden style is one of kaiyū-shiki-teien; meaning a landscape or promenade garden. Designed for a wander in a choreographed clock-wise manner, leading to the informal nomenclature of go-round style. Two main techniques are employed.
- Shakkei, or borrowed scenery, utilizes open views to the surrounding area to make the garden seem more expansive and grand.
- Miegakure, or hide-and-reveal. This style cunningly conceals and then reveals features for optimum viewing. Utilizing winding paths, bamboo or the buildings themselves.
Other structures include:
The Sekkatei Teahouse – an Edo period addition – sits in an optimal position to view the setting sun glancing off the gold leaf of the Golden Temple in Kyoto.
Fudo Hall, a small temple hall which houses a statue of Fudo Myoo, one of the Five Wisdom Kings and protector of Buddhism
Visitor Info: Golden Temple in Kyoto
Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 603-8361, Japan