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Rokuon-ji (Golden Pavilion)

Listed under Temples in Kyoto, Japan.

  • Photo of Rokuon-ji (Golden Pavilion)
  • Photo of Rokuon-ji (Golden Pavilion)
  • Photo of Rokuon-ji (Golden Pavilion)
  • Photo of Rokuon-ji (Golden Pavilion)
  • Photo of Rokuon-ji (Golden Pavilion)
  • Photo of Rokuon-ji (Golden Pavilion)
  • Photo of Rokuon-ji (Golden Pavilion)
  • Photo of Rokuon-ji (Golden Pavilion)
Photo of Rokuon-ji (Golden Pavilion)
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A peaceful life in a serene setting – what a pleasant thing to aspire to – a landscape lovely on the eye in which to spend your days.... This is what the abdicated Shogun responsible for building the original pavilion on this site at the turn of the 14th Century was planning for when he built a beautiful three storey pavilion on the foreshore of a mirrored pond which would multiply its beauty via reflection. When he died he gave it to a Zen Buddhist sect, but it didn't start off the gold leaf beauty it is today – its second two floors are coated in Japanese lacquer and gold leaf – though in a similar style to that of other Zen temples it was built to be far grander and more auspicious.

Kinakaku, meaning Golden Pavilion, gleams in the sun, the waters surrounding it create a wonderful moving light show on the underside of its gold eaves that I wanted to stay and watch – something I'm sure Buddhists in their meditations appreciated as well. Koi and turtles create gentle ripples in the water of the mirror pond, dotted with islands covered in those amazingly attractive flat limbed trees – another loveliness to admire twice over in reflection, and if it was a peaceful day you could easily find a spot by the lake or in one of the surrounding gardens to meditate on the meaning of life and the powers of man and nature...

Unfortunately though I was there on a perfect day, conditions were far from perfect. Firstly, there were about 400 additional people there on top of the number whose company I would most prefer to admire the pavilion with. Secondly the pavilion is right up front, as soon as you walk in the gate, and after seeing it you walk back around towards the gate and the market sellers, and there are security guards making sure you don't go against the flow of people and go back to take a second look. Far from musing on the pleasure in aesthetics you can easily end up with a photo full of other people taking photos... The actual temple is a long way behind the pavilion, via a wonderful garden which is pretty close to the original designed in the 13th Century. Much less popular, lots of people were skipping it in favour of the tea houses and shops and souvenir shops, it's still a lovely site tucked into the side of a wooded hill, with votive rails on the left of the temple front.

Written by  Kat Mackintosh.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Kinkakuji Temple

By the time we reached Kinkakuji Temple or most popularly known as the Golden Pavilion, a small drizzle had turned into a big downpour. Our tour guide looked surprised since the weather forecast hadn’t mentioned anything more than a slight drizzle and that too in the afternoon. Makes me wonder, are all weathermen all around the world are incompetent? Always expect the opposite of what’s predicted! The bus made a stop at the temple parking and the guide announced that they usually DO walk around in the rains (wtf?!). I saw a souvenir shop at a distance and ran towards it in hopes of finding an umbrella. Fortunately, they did sell cheap plastic umbrellas. But unfortunately the unexpected rain and people without raingear prompted the shop to up the sale price. Me and a colleague managed to follow the guide (one other decided otherwise) to the place by the pond surrounding the temple but couldn’t go further. Here the guide told us that the original temple was set on fire by a monk who was not happy with the temple management and what stands now is just a replica of the original. Still pretty impressive.

Rokuon-ji (Kinkaku-ji)

Often called the Golden Pavillion Temple because it’s top two storeys are covered in gold leaf, Kinkaku houses Buddhist relics and is a temple of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism. On the roof is a golden phoenix. To demonstrate the contrasting beauty of nature and man made art the temple is surrounded by a beautiful garden.

Originally built as a villa for a Shogun in 1397 to be as ‘A paradise on earth‘, it was converted into a Buddhist temple by his son. Unfortunately this isn’t the original, which was burned down by a disturbed monk in the 1950’s, this is a replica completed in 1955. The main difference between the new and old pavilions is the shade of gold, the original gold leaf had worn and dulled over the centuries, while the new, thicker leaf is much more brilliant.

The not-gold ground floor faces onto the mirror pond and was used to entertain, while the second floor is for religious treasures and the third is decorated like a Zen temple and houses the Buddha.

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