October 21st, 2017
Our visit to Kyoto started with a trip to the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji 金閣寺), a Zen temple where the top two floors are covered with gold leaf. It’s an impressive sight indeed – it has burned down numerous times throughout its history including twice during the Onin War, a civil war that destroyed much of Kyoto; and once again more recently in 1950 when it was set on fire by a fanatic monk. The present structure was rebuilt in 1955.
As you can see, it was raining pretty hard on this day but this didn’t dampen our enthusiasm to visit this wonderful site. With the surrounding lake and perfectly pruned trees, it is quite a serene place to visit.
Kinkakuji was built to echo the extravagant Kitayama culture that developed in the wealthy aristocratic circles of Kyoto during Yoshimitsu’s times. Each floor represents a different style of architecture.
The first floor is built in the Shinden style used for palace buildings during the Heian Period, and with its natural wood pillars and white plaster walls contrasts yet complements the gilded upper stories of the pavilion. Statues of the Shaka Buddha (historical Buddha) and Yoshimitsu are stored in the first floor. Although it is not possible to enter the pavilion, the statues can be viewed from across the pond if you look closely, as the front windows of the first floor are usually kept open.
The second floor is built in the Bukke style used in samurai residences, and has its exterior completely covered in gold leaf. Inside is a seated Kannon Bodhisattva surrounded by statues of the Four Heavenly Kings; however, the statues are not shown to the public. Finally, the third and uppermost floor is built in the style of a Chinese Zen Hall, is gilded inside and out, and is capped with a golden phoenix.
Having skipped the “unnecessary lucky charm”, we visited lovely Ryoanji Temple (龍安寺), famous for its rock garden. Featuring 15 rocks, it’s interesting to note that from any viewpoint at least one rock is hidden. One popular interpretation is this theme represents a tiger carrying cubs across a pond.
Finally the group stopped at the famous bamboo grove at Arashiyama (嵐山) – Claudia took this photo…
After an exhausting day, time for another gourmet dinner. Tomorrow, Nara!