Friday, December 4, 2009

On The Beaten Path: Kinkakuji

Let's start out this review with an image of one of the ramen dinners I had in Japan. I think it would be fun to put a competition together gathering ramens from various regions in Asia and ranking them. That certainly would be fun and funny.

For now I can tell you that I enjoy Japanese instant ramen a whole lot better than Korean. Why? It's not so spicy. Some of them even come with a packaged peice of ham.

But the reality is ramen isn't really that healthy and usually contains a high dose of sodium and MSG.

Moving on...
This post is about day 4 of my trip when I ventured into Kyoto for the first time. I was a bit tired this day but decided to get out anyways.

I arrived at Kyoto station by taking the Midosuji line using my Kansai Thru Pass. While I was exiting the station I saw these two ladies wearing kimonos. In my research I think I read that if residents wear traditional dress (both men and women) then you get to ride the public transportation for free.

Actually, throughout my trip to Kyoto I saw several young and older women wearing traditional dress. I want to remind you guys that these people are not Geisha's, for that is a whole other sector.

Riding the Bus:
I had a few options on getting to the Kinkakuji. One I could transfer subway lines a few times or two I could hop on a bus that goes directly there. Guess which one I chose!

My Kansai Thru Pass worked for the bus too so it was an easy ride. Here I am in line waiting for the bus, which was not hard to find.

This is a view from the bus station of the Kyoto Tower.  What a behemoth!

An image I took while riding the bus. The bus system in Kyoto works a little different from that here in South Korea. You get on in the middle and don't pay till you get off, which is in the front. Maybe this system is a bit better? I do have to say the bus driver waited long enough at each stop to make sure the passengers were on and off safely.
Entrance to the Kinkakuji:
I was hungry by the time I got there but noticed there weren't any restaurants near the entrance. So got a quick cafe bite to eat nearby.

More Kimono clad girls~
Entering you are greeted by a lovely park and autumn foliage.


Things start to quiet down a bit and you can hear the sound of birds chirping away in the background.

You come to an area where you can choose to go right and buy a snack or go forward and pay the entrance fee.

On the way is a large iron bell where you can pull back the ringer and strike the bell if you wish.

Kinkakuji Temple (AKA Rokuon - ji Temple):
In my Japanese Art History class this was a major topic as part of my studies. I remember seeing the slides and how beautiful it looked. I imagined what it must of been like to go see it, but of course my imagination and reality ended up as two different things.

The temple is a major tourist spot not just for people out of town but for local folks and school groups. I found myself mixed into to all of this trying to contemplate and take in the site of the glowing temple.  

A little History:
During the Muromachi period Zen Buddhism was at its height and therefore influenced artists greatly. Since the ruling party favored Zen Buddhism that meant that money could be given out to those who felt the desire to build or create something for the religion.

When looking at an art object in a museum or viewing a sacred site ask yourself these questions:
  • Why was it made?
  • What is it's function?
This was made for the purpose first as a villa and then converted into a temple.
The building's first purpose was to serve the retiring Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu(1358-1409) as a residence. The gold-leaf-adorned building was converted into a Zen temple shortly after his death. In an event that was later fictionalized by the renowned author Yukio Mishima, a 21-year-old monk burned Kinkakuji down in 1950. The temple was rebuilt in 1955, and continues to function as a storehouse of sacred relics.
These facts attribute to the temple's historical purpose and function, today it serves as a tourist attraction. Perhaps on certain occasions ceremonies are held and some monks come out to visit it for purposes of their study.  In general I believe that it is a money-making site, however still is very beautiful.

Now I will take you through my photographic exploitations of the temple:

Can you spot the iris flower? ;)

Here is an idea of what being there is like with the other tourists. Maybe coming on a cold winter or sultry hot summer day would yield less people.
School kids wearing yellow hats.

Around the Temple:
Let me now take you around the temple as I had to follow a designated path. There was a special exhibit in this building, which I did not attend.

This view shows the visitors taking a look at the Kinkakuji where I first took my pictures.

A nice picture of the temple looking through a pine tree on the grounds.

As you make your way on the path you get view a closer look of the temple. What is inside you might ask? Buddhist relics mostly. Also it is good to note that there are three different styles to the architecture seen on the pavilion.

The roof is thickly shingled with thin boards of sawara (Japanese cypress) and crowned with a gilded finial in the form of a phoenix, an imaginary bird with auspicious associations in China.

The first floor of the pavilion, known as the Hôsuiin ("Temple of Dharma Water"), is built in the shinden style (shinden zukuri) associated with Heian-period nobility.

The second story, called the Chôondô ("Grotto of Wave Sounds"), is built in the buke style (buke zukuri) used for samurai houses.

The third floor is built in the style of a Buddha Hall from a Chinese Chan (Zen) temple and is known as the Kukkyôchô ("Superb Apex"). These three divergent styles are masterfully combined in the Golden Pavilion, making it an outstanding example of Muromachi-period architecture.

Here a guide was showing a group what is inside the temple~

Making my way around the back of the temple.

If I were there with less people I could have imagined how contemplative and peaceful this place would have been. Despite the crowd I still enjoyed the scenery and history before my eyes.

The Gardens: 
Leaving the pavilion area you are made to walk a path through the gardens, which are very lovely.

Go up a stony path~

Anmintoku tranquility pond~

In the center is a small island with a five-element stupa known as the White Snake Mound (Hakuja no Tsuka), thought to have been a tutelary shrine of the Saionji family.

An uphill view of the pavilion~

Sekkatai Teahouse:
 famous three-mat tearoom is built in the sukiya style, in accordance with Sôwa's tastes, and features an alcove pillar of nandina (nanten) and alternating shelves (chigaidana) of bush clover (hagi).

Souvenir shop~
A restaurant near the end of the path where you can get a cup of tea and rice cake.

 I reached the end of the path where a large souvenir shop and the Fudo Hall was. It was a bit swamped by school kids and visitors.



I made my way out and headed back to Kyoto station for dinner. My response to seeing the temple is that it is for sure a must-see. But I think if possible try to get there before the crowds. However, I think a visit to Japan, especially this area, would not be complete without seeing this site.

For me I have something I can share with my parents back home to talk about. Also I think it would be fun to sketch the pavilion using the pictures as influence.

On my way out I took these pictures:

Dinner ~ Donkatsu

Well I move to my new place tomorrow and meet my coteacher and other faculty members. I am deadbeat tired from the traveling I did in Japan. So I am really hoping I get my rest before starting work Monday.  If my new place doesn't have internet for a while that will be why I don't post much...but maybe I can catch some wireless action.


  1. I saw soooo many kimonos in Tokyo, such a change from Seoul where it's rare to see folks in Hanbok wandering around..

  2. Maybe if they offered free transport they would wear hanboks more... that would be cool

  3. Joy,
    Another excellent post - definitely one of your best. Definitely a LOT of pictures - my computer took a few minutes to load them all, but they were worth the wait. Cheers :)


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