F In Kyoto: Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion - jeepneyjinggoy

In Kyoto: Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Yes, the two floors of the three-storey pavilion are gilded in gold. On a sunny day, when the pond reflects the pavilion on its still surface, opulence is doubled. 

The Kinkaku. The Golden Pavilion

This much people. the Kinkaku is one of Kyoto's most popular attractions

Map of the temple complex

It's the Kinkaku, literally translates to The Golden Pavilion, and it’s a “shariden,” a Buddhist hall housing the relics of the Buddha of the temple complex, formally known as the Rukuon-ji (Deer Garden Temple), or more commonly called, Kinkaku-ji, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion.

A closer look

The pavilion was originally the retirement home of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. Upon his death in 1408, the building was converted into a Zen temple in accordance with his wishes.

In its history, fire devastated the complex, twice during the Onin War, and in 1950, when a fanatic monk set the pavilion on fire.

The present pavilion, the only structure left of the shogun’s original retirement complex, was rebuilt in 1955. It exudes a look that may have stayed loyal to the original building built in the 14th century, when visual excesses and extravagance was predominant with the wealthy aristocratic set of Kyoto, thus, the gilding of Kinkaku. The original structure is said to be not as extensive as today’s version, which was completed in 1987. 

Three distinct architectural styles are utilized on each of the levels of the Kinkaku—shinden, samurai and Zen. 

The first floor is called “The Chamber of Dharma Waters”. Here, the shinden style common to Heian period imperial palaces is employed: open spaces with adjacent verandas, the use of natural, unpainted wood and white plaster. The design and materials help to emphasize the surrounding landscape. Here, statues of the Shaka Buddha and Yoshimitsu are stored and can be viewed through the windows (if opened) from across the pond. 

The second floor is called The Tower of Sound Waves and built in the Bukke style used in the residences of samurais, and the exterior is covered entirely in gold leaf. This floor houses a Buddha Hall and a shrine dedicated to Kannon Bodhisattva, the goddess of mercy.

Built in the style of traditional Chinese Zen Hall, the third floor is called the Cupola of the Ultimate, and is gilded on the interior and exterior, and the roofing is topped with a golden phoenix.

A golden phoenix tops the roof

The pavilion's rooftop seen from a distance

The hojo, the head priest's former living quarters, is situated behind the golden pavilion

The trail leads to the temple’s gardens, also an excellent design example of the Muromachi period (considered as the classical age of Japanese garden design), which empathizes with the correlation between structures and its settings. 

In the garden are these points of interest: the hojo, the former living quarters of the head priest; a pond that is said to never dry up—the Anmin-taku Pond; and statues, which coins are tossed at for luck.

Toss a coin at this statues for luck

Flowing water

White Snake Pagoda in the pond of Anmin-taku, the pond that never dries up

Further down the garden’s path is the Sekkatei Teahouse, which was added to the complex during the Edo Period.

 The Sekka-tei Tea House was added to the complex during teh Edo period.

Saisen box in the Sekai Teahouse

Exiting the temple complex’s paid area, there’s also a small tea garden where matcha tea and sweets are offered, and a small temple hall called the Fudo Hall, which houses a statue of Fudo-myoo, one of the Five Wisdom Kings and protector of Buddhism.

Fudo Hall, a small temple hall which houses a statue of Fudo Myoo, one of the Five Wisdom Kings and protector of Buddhism

The statue of Fudo Myoo is said to be carved by Kobo Daishi, an important figure in Japanese religious history.

Matcha & sweets served at this small tea garden

After To-ji, Kinkaku-ji was the second stop of my third day in Kyoto. The Temple of the Golden Pavilion is designated as a National Special Historic Site and a National Special Landscape. It’s also one of 17 sites making up the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, which are World Heritage Sites. 

How to get there? Just follow the signs

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Also published in the SunStar Davao newspaper.