One of the most famous spots to visit in Kyoto, Japan is located just down the street from my mansion. Kinkaku-ji 「金閣寺」, also known as the [Temple of the] Golden Pavilion, is truly an amazingly breathtaking sight to see at least once, in every season.
While I do not make a habit of making the 5-minute walk up to the temple often, seeing as how it is swarming with crowded tourists and there is an admissions fee, I do try to visit the place once every new season to take photographs for personal and business uses.
Kinkaku-ji was one of the lucky landmarks in Japan that had managed to survive the Orion Wars, as well as World War II, only to later be burned down by a young schizophrenic monk in 1950.
Well isn’t that ironic.
The temple was later rebuilt with an even thicker coating of pure gold leaf in 1955. Nowadays, it has become one the nation’s greatest picturesque buildings.
Similar to the temple’s sister sanctuary Ginkaku-ji「銀閣寺」, Kinkaku-ji outlooks a serene Japanese Zen walking garden, that is truly stunning. If you’re lucky, you might be able to catch the light being just right and take in the sight of the temple reflecting in the great Kyoto-chi pond.
The grounds of the temple are intended to illuminate the harmony of heaven and earth, as described in numerous primordial Buddhist scripts, which is the foundation of the temple itself. Furthermore, you’ll come to see that there are four large stones at the center of the pond. Nothing in Japan is done without meaning and thought, as such; the intent of this design is to symbolize the four main islands of the nation.
If you take time to truly look around the grounds, you shall make note of a small traditional tea house in the Zen gardens.
This tea house is not simply for show either. Many that visitors are lucky enough to be on grounds during certain hours are able to take part in a special Tea Service outside of the tea house. The main highlight of this ceremony to tourists tends to be the standard Zen sweet that is always accompanied with a Tea Ceremony, however this occasion grants the sweet to be decorated with a gold leaf, in allusion to the temple itself.
Kinkaku-ji, built centuries ago in 1397, had once been the renowned villa of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu「足利 義満」, a powerful Shogun during the Ashikaga Shogunate reign. Upon his death the villa was then converted into a Zen temple, as per his own wishes.
Contrary to what many, foreigners and locals, believe, the real name of the temple is Rokuon-ji 「録音時」. However, the name Kinkaku-ji has been the more popular colourful moniker for the temple for centuries now.
The late Shogun Yoshimitsu’s own son, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, later built a temple that is strikingly architecturally parallel to Kinkaku-ji, dubbed Ginkaku-ji. Further similarities between the two temple is seen in their namesakes, with Ginkaku-ji being the more favoured moniker rather than its original name of Jishō-ji 「慈照寺」.