Elizabeth and I spent a rainy afternoon visiting one of Kyoto’s most popular tourist attractions, the Zen Buddhist site where the Golden Pavilion (金閣, kinkaku?) is located. Nor originally built as a religious structure, the top 2 floors of this stunningly beautiful lakeside building are covered in gold leaf.
Originally a secular building, it was purchased and occupied by the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu during the 14th century, and at his request, was dedicated to the Zen Buddhists after his death.
The original pavilion was burned down in 1950 by a novice monk, and the current structure, which may have a bit more bling than the original, was reconstructed in 1955. Even on such a wet day, it is a very crowded site, as photographers jostle for a tourist-free shot. Tripods are strictly and expressly forbidden everywhere on the grounds.
Elizabeth and I spent most of our visit wandering around the gardens, which can only be described as harmonious. The lakeside position of the pavilion is a perfect way to maximize the impact of the gold.
While obviously, much of the landscaping is designed to accommodate the pavilion, the garden is quite large, offering more subtle pleasures that were maybe even enhanced by the somewhat moody mist, with the rainfall increasing the saturation of the greens and browns.
Considered to epitomize the minimalist garden aesthetic of the Muromachi Period (1337 to 1573), the garden unfolds in a series of tableaus as the visitor strolls along a winding stone path.
Visitors leave by descending a long, stone inlaid stairway. No longer narrow or winding, yet still attractive, it leads directly to the real world.