This is Kinkaku-ji. This is a must-see when one visits Kyoto, otherwise it’s like visiting a Haagen-Daz parlour and ordering only the wafer and not the ice-cream.
This is a Zen temple (zen means meditative state), and I was totally zen-ed by this gold-leaf covered building. I mean, who wouldn’t be “meditative” when you see a whole glittering piece of monument in front of you.
Kinkaku-ji’s English name is “Temple of the Golden Pavilion”
Like most well-known temples or castles, Kinkaku-ji has been burnt to the ground before, not once, but a few times. This present Kinkaku-ji was re-built after the 1950 arson case by a novice monk.
I walked closer to the pavilion to get a better look at the glittering gold. Only 2nd & 3rd floor are covered with gold, not the entire building. But that’s still a lot of gold. As I was walking closer to the gold, I could almost emphatise with Hansel and Gretel for peeling the food off the bread and sweet cottage. I wanted to peel the gold too. But not to stuff in my mouth, but stuff into my pocket. Last I checked, gold is still hovering at US$1,200 per ounce.
While the golden pavilion is obviously the Main Actor, the garden is an equally respectable Supporting Actor. It is a beautiful Japanese garden, rich with foliage. Some of the trees were already responding to the arrival of autumn.
The pond, the islets, the rocks, the trees are created and located purposefully. There is no accident in the way they are placed or grown. Almost every significant item has a meaningful representation that touched on enhancing the vision of the pavilion, re-playing of Chinese and Japanese literature, and paying respect to Buddhist philosophies.
This is a 600+ year old pine tree. Bamboo scaffolds support the heavy pine trunk that had grown sideways, instead of upright. 600 years old! That’s old. And this tree could have earned a spot in history books. Its birth is about the same time as Parameswara founded Malacca (in Malaysia).
The garden is a well-designed strolling ground. Because it is also a big garden, and if you keep your eyes peeled to other non-gold looking stuff, you’d see a lot of other interesting garden inhabitants. Like this roof that grew mushrooms. They looked like the mushrooms I find in some miso soups.
On another side of the garden, there is a smaller pond. There is a knoll, and right in the middle of the knoll is a granite-looking small pagoda. It has an interesting name: White Snake Pagoda. I couldn’t get any one to explain to me why the name White Snake. Was a white snake imprisoned in there yonks ago? Was a white snake buried in this knoll? Anyway, I researched this piece of granite. I’m not going to be encyclopaedic here, but legend has a juicy story behind the name, and it’s linked to jealousy. Ok that’s about all that I will reveal 😉