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‹àŠtŽ›  Kinkakuji Temple


Last update August 10, 2010

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Glossary Detailed Explanation
Representing a Glorious Buddha Land
Harmonious Landscapes with the Golden Pavillion, Magnificent Garden, and Tea House.

Rokuonji Temple
Popularly-called Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) for its famous golden stupa: a monument honoring Buddha's relics, its official name is Rokuon-ji Temple. The temple belongs to the Shōkoku-ji school of the Rinzai Buddhist denomination. It was listed as a World Cultural Heritage site in 1994.

Once there was a villa of Saionji Kintsune, a political figure in the Kamakura Period (1192 - 1333) at this location. Yoshimitsu, the third shogun of the Ashikaga reign took the liking of this site and obtained it from the Saionji in 1396. Yoshimitsu built Kitayama Palace, on the grounds centered around the golden stupa (Kinkaku). The entire palace premises consisting of the Golden Pavilion, garden and architectures represents an after-world Buddhist paradise.

Kitayama Palace used to stage both political and cultural centers in the age. It was a guest house for Emperor Gokomatsu, who frequently visited Yoshimitsu, as well as for delegations from China (Ming). The profits obtained from the trades with Ming had financed the construction of the palace, which leads to blooming of the contemporary culture dubbed as Kitayama style.

After Yoshimitsu's death, Master Musokokushi (the first chief abbot of the temple) founded Rokuonji temple following Yoshimitsu's will. The name Rokuonji was coined from posthumous name of the shogun.

Golden Pavillion

The second and third tiers of the pavilion are coated with lacquer and gilded with gold-leaf. The roofs are thatched with shingles of wood similar to cypress (botanical name; Chamaecyparis pisifera).

On top of the roof, a statue of Chinese phoenix, auspicious symbol, is decorated.

Each of the three tiers features a special architectural style; the first floor uses the Aristocratic (Shinden) style, the second, the Warrior style and the third, the Chinese Zen Buddhist style. They are called "Hosui-in" (Dharma Water Room), "Cho-on-do" (Tide Sound Cave), and "Kukkyo-cho" (Supreme Pursuit Summit) respectively.

The Golden Pavilion is one of the most notable architectures in the Muromachi Period (1392 - 1573) in which these three different styles are perfectly blended and harmonized.

The circular garden with the pond in the center represents a typical example of the Walk-Around-Pond design (pond-centered garden) in the Muromachi Period, and is listed as one of special national historical spots. The pond in front of the Golden Pavillion is called "Kyōko-chi" (Mirror Pond). Around the pond are located multiple miniature islands in various sizes including "Ashiwara-jima," as well as decorative rocks offered by various lords of the time who seeked favor from the shogun. The rocks are called after the names of the lords who offered them. The magnificient scenery of the garden with Kinugasa Mountain in the west as the background is esteemed as one of the most beautiful sceneries in Japan.

There are several more points to see in the garden. The "Pine Tree in Boat Shape" located at the north of the Hōjō House is an example. The tree is considered one of the "Three Beautiful Pine Trees in Kyoto", and is said to have been planted by Yoshimitsu himself. Behind the Golden Pavillion, there is "Ginga-sen" (Silver River Fountain) whose water was used to make tea for the shogun. Also there is "Ganka-sui" (Under-Rock Water), used by the same shogun to wash his hands. At the "Dragon Gate Fountain," the stone named "Carp Stone" is placed, based on an old Chinese story entitled "Gate to Dragons," which describes a carp swimming its way up against a waterfall to transform into a dragon.

Far behind the Golden Pavillion there is an old pond named "An-min-taku" (Peaceful People Pond). On the island in the pond is located a small pagoda, "Hakuja-no-tsuka" (Mound in Memory of the White Snake).

Sekkatei Tea House
Loved by a tea master named Sowa Kanamori in the Edo Period (1603 - 1867), the tea house is famous for the beautiful sunset view seen from the house.

Named Sekkatei; literally meaning "Beautiful Sunset Cabin," the house uses the typical tea house design called Sukiya style. The front pillar of the house is made of single nandin tree and is a famous rarity. At the right of the pillar, there is the "Stair-step Shelf of Bush Clover" and the old wooden pillar at the center is made of a special kind of plum tree called "Nightingale-dwelling Plum Tree." The house was dismantled once in 1997 for a minute repair.

The stone lantern and the hands-washing basin in shape of Mt. Fuji placed in front of the ceremonial seats were favorite of the 8th Shogun Yoshimasa Ashikaga (he built the Silver Pavillion in Jishoji Temple). The chair beside the ceremonial seats is referred to as "Noble Person's Chair."

Achala Shrine

A stone Achala (Fudomyo-o) image is enshrined here. The image is a legendary workpiece carved by Master Kobo, high priest and founder of the Shingon Buddhist demonimation.

The Achala image is widely believed to possess strong divine force and worshipped by many people.

The encasement-opening service is given twice a year; on February 3 and August 16.