24th October, 2006 - Heading out early in the morning by bus, we arrived at Kinkaku-ji: The Golden Pavilion. Actually - it's official name is "Rokuon-ji". The first thing that you realise when you arrive is that it's going to be busy... there are any number of tour buses lined up at the front gate, and the people are milling everywhere...
Possibly the most famous of sights in Kyōto today, the Golden Pavillion Temple (Kinkaku-ji) started out very differently - it was originally a villa built in the 11th century. And no - there was no gold then. The villa slowly fell into ruin, and was then taken over by the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358 – 1408 AD). Actually the Temple's official name comes from Yoshimitsu's posthumous Buddhist name Rokuon-in.
As with the cloistered emperors before, he retired to his new home and ruled from behind the scenes, whilst nominally giving power over to his nine year old son (Ashikaga Yoshimochi). Yoshimitsu was a devotee of Zen Buddhism, going on to establish the Shōkoku-ji temple, which we posted about previously. After he died, the villa was converted into a temple, with the famous Musô Sôseki (1275-1351) as its first Abbot.
On top of the pavilion is mounted a metre high gold covered bronze phoenix statue.
Whilst you can't normally enter the Shariden, you can get a pretty good look all around...
Almost all of the original buildings have since been lost to time and decay. The Gold Pavilion had withstood the many wars and fires that beset Kyōto, however, in 1950 an obsessed monk burnt the building entirely to the ground. This tale is told well in Mishima's book, The Temple of The Golden Pavilion. The resulting building is an exact replica. Today the temple, as with it's twin Ginkaku-ji, is still controlled by the Shōkoku-ji Rinzai Zen school.
The back looks quite a bit different... but still recognizable.
Tranquility Pond (Anmintaku) is a small pond that is reputed to never dry up, regardless of drought. It is therefore also known as a place at which people pray for rain. Across the pond sits the stupa known as the White Snake Mound (Hakuja no Tsuka) - which may indeed date back to the family estate prior to the acquisition by the Ashikaga.
The Dragon Gate Falls is definitely underwhelming as far as "waterfalls" goes... the name comes from the legend that should carp manage to swim up the waterfall, they would transform into a dragon. The large rock is meant to represent this transformation of the carp into a dragon as it ascends towards the heavens.
And if you've got time, it's definitely worth strolling around the gardens. Very pleasant. Whilst some of the trees were starting to turn when we were there, it was still too early in Autumn to see much colour. Then again... it also gets busier exponentially with the more colour on the trees.
Atop the hill lies the Sekkatei Teahouse (or Favourable Sunset Teahouse)... the result of one of the influential Abbots of the Edo-period, Hôrin Jôshô. It is positioned to allow the occupants to gaze down at the reflections of the setting sun across the pond.
And speaking of tea - you can purchase some Matcha.... this is a very thick powdered Japanese tea used for the tea ceremony (by the way Uji Matcha is considered the best).
It's normally served with a small sweet (o'chauke).... Kawaii!... that's cute. This particular type is called Rakugan.
And of course, it wouldn't be a temple without some place for worship. This is the Fudô Hall - dedicated to Fudô Myôô, who is also known as Acala. The destroyer of delusion and protector of Buddhism. Hmmm - delusion huh?... just don't tell me that was the Fool's Gold Pavilion!
After a great walk around the Golden Pavilion grounds, it's time to move on. O'Mighty Phoenix... point the way to our next destination. Ryoan-ji. Arigatou!