The Golden Pavilion & Ryoanji

The Golden Pavilion, also known as Kinkakuji, or Rokuonji, was originally built in 1397 and is one of the 17 World Culture Heritage sites in Kyoto. The original structure was burnt down in 1950, and what stands now is a complete replica.

As this weekend is a four day holiday from school, and it also directly follows our midterm test schedule, it is the perfect chance to go out and explore more of Kyoto. Today, Nicky and I, along with Erin, Ian and Sarah, all went north to view two of Kyoto’s most famous spots- right at the height of the fall colors.

I had known about the Golden Pavilion before, as it was the backdrop of the first book of Yukio Mishima’s that I’d read, The Golden Pavilion. The novel was a fictional adaptation of the crime that took place on July 2, 1950, when a monk by the name of Hayashi Yoken burned the original structure down. The novel itself spoke of the dichotomy between beauty and ugliness, power and weakness, through a somewhat perverse lens. It certainly makes an impact, and it a novel that is hard to forget.

That being said, I was certain I would actually be rather disappointed by the -real- Golden Pavilion, as Mishima described the temple continually as a place of impossible beauty. Of course, since these descriptions were given to us through the narrator, who suffered from mental illness, we are to understand that the temple actually is not so beautiful.

Nonetheless, I found the temple quite stunning. With the washes of crimson red in the backdrop, and a perfectly still pond below, the temple gleamed so beautifully. Even with all of the tourists, the tranquility of the spot could not be broken. Truly, I think it is one of my more favored temples of the ones I have visited since arriving in Japan.

Afterwards, we headed a little more to the east to go to Ryoanji (or The Temple of the Dragon at Peace). This temple is also one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. It’s main feature is a rock garden consisting of fifteen boulders that, no matter where one stands in the garden, are impossible to see all at once. At any time, only fourteen are visible. It is said that the fifteenth boulder can only be seen if one has attained enlightenment.

Both of these temples were extremely pretty, though I am certain, to an extent, that the red and gold colors of fall greatly enhanced the experience there. It has been a wonderful thing to be living in a place that has four true seasons. I can only imagine what winter will bring us.