Revised – Office Flora Japonica – Hiromi Nishiwaki -金閣寺(Kinkakuji-The Golden Pavilion)🌸😊🌈🗾

Published by Hiromi Nishiwaki on

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Kinkakuji, from the series Famous Places in Kyoto / Utagawa Hiroshige ca. 1835

Hello my friend! Today I'd like to explain a history of Kinkaku-ji temple. I hope you enjoy!

Yes! I promsied with you yesterday that I will put only one painting per mail yesterday, however, I couldn't...
Because today's theme is Kinkakuji - the golden pavilion - I definitely need to put at least 5- 6 pictures in a mail.
Thank you for your understanding!


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Shari-den(Kinkaku) ---The Golden Pavilion today


Kinkakuji and Shariden


Kinkaku-ji-temple, 金閣寺, is one of the most attractive tourist destination in Japan.

The Shariden (舎利殿), the hall to store sacred relics of the Buddha is commonly known as Kunkaku-ji (The golden pavilion). It is a 3-story building. The top stories of the pavilion are covered with pure gold leaf.

It has three distinct styles of architecture; 1st story---Palace style (Shinden Zukuri) ---Aristocratic mansion style in Heian Period (794 - 1185) and 2nd story- Samurai style (Buke-Zukuri)--- warrior aristocratic style. and finally 3rd story ---Zen style, (Chinese Chan style).

Shakyamuni triad
and Kannon image and relics of Buddha are stored respectively.

The combination of Luxury and simplicity is second to none in unique beauty. The official name of Kinkaku-ji is Rokuon-ji.

It is situated at the foot of Kinugasa hill, the north west of Kyoto. It belongs to Shokoku-ji school of Rinzai (Zen) Sect of Buddhism. It was founded by Yoshimitsu Ashikaga, the third Shogun of Ashikaga Government in 1397.

It has a pair temple, Ginkaku-ji-temple,
銀閣寺, "Temple of the Silver Pavilion" in the east of Kyoto. Both Kinkaku-ji and Ginkaku-ji are administered by Shokoku-ji-temple.

It is an iconic building style of Kitayama Culture (Early Muromachi Period, i.e. late 14 Century to first half of 15 Century.) The characteristics of Kitayama Culture is a combination of Noble aristocratic culture in Heian Period and Emerging Samurai culture.

It was influenced by Ming dynasty and others continental states.

Kinkakuji and SAIONJI family


Before Yoshimitsu establish Kinkakuji in 1397, the site was owned by Saionji family. (Japanese kuge (court aristocrat) family related to the Northern Fujiwara branch of the Fujiwara clan and the Imadegawa clan. )

Saionji Kintsune (西園寺公経), was a court noble in Kamakura period, established Saionji-temple and his villa Kitayama-tei around 1224.

Kitayama-tei was well-known for beauty and Luxury. Japanese historical tale books "Masukagami" (増鏡 /1368 -1376) and Meigetsuki (明月記 /written by famous poet Sadaie Fujiwara /藤原定家 /1162 - 1241) mentioned about the beauty.

Saionji clan is a distinguished family. Kinmochi Saionji (西園寺公望) acted as a political adviser for Hirobumi Ito (1841 - 1909) , the first prime minister of Japan.

Descendants of Kinstune were owners of the site, however, it was confiscated after the downfall of Kamakura government because the family was closely connected to it and protected by it. In addition, Kinmune SAIONJI was executed after being accused of the plot to invite Emperor GODAIGO and assassinate him. Then after, the site was dilapidated.

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Kinkakuji and Ashikaga Yoshimitsu

Kamakura government (governed by Minamoto Clan and Hojo Clan) was overthrown in 1333 Muromachi Government was founded by Ashikaga Clan in 1336.

Then, Yoshimitsu Ashikaga (足利義満), The third Shogun of Muromachi Government, took over the site and created his villa in 1397. It was called Kitayama-tei (北山第) or Kitayama-dono (北山殿) . And, This is the origin of KINKAKUJI. Yoshimitsu made the site as a political and economical center.

One of the significant contribution of Yoshimitsu was unification of two emperor system in 1392, unification of Northern and southern court, which had been divided since 1336. I'd like to write about background of division and unification of imperial system for another occasion.

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Ashikaga Yoshimitsu Admiring the Golden Pavilion /Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Japan, 1839-1892)

After the death of Yoshimitsu, the villa turned to be a temple according to the words of Yoshimitsu, and it was named as "Rokuon-ji" from the Posthumous name of Yoshimitsu. A prominent Priest, Soseki Muso was designated as a nominal founder of Rokuon-ji. (*ji=temple in Japanese)

Most of the Zen temples were under the patronage of Shogun, therefore, they fell in economical difficulties, with an eclipse of shogun's power.

Kinkakuji and Onin War

Kinkaku-ji (Rokuon-ji) survived Onin War (1467 - 1477 ) amid many other temples in Kyoto were burnt down. Saishō Shōtai (西笑承兌) , a priest of Rinzai-sect (Zen sect) served as the chief priest of Kinkaku-ji (Rokuon-ji) .

He was an adviser for both Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537 - 1598/the second "Great Unifier" of Japan) and Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543 - 1616/the founder of Tokugawa government) . He formed the economical base of Kinkaku-ji (Rokuon-ji) .


Kinkakuji in Meiji Period

Kinkaku-ji lost the patronage in Meiji period (1868 - 1912) onward and experienced many hardships including Haibutsu-Kishaku (a movement to abolish Buddhism, to establish State Shinto) , however again they survived it thanks to the efforts of priests.

The temple started to earn income by opening the temple and collecting admission fee from the visitors at the time of 12th Chief priest 's administration in 1894 (Meiji 27).

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Temple bells being smelted for bronze during the haibutsu kishaku/Tanaka Nagane


🙂The temple was designated as National Treasure in 1929. (Showa 4)

🙂The temple lost the Shariden (Golden Pavilion) and statues, by arson in 1950. (Showa 25) (The arson case of Kinkakuji)

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Kinkaku-ji after arson

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GoldenPavillion1905 (Before the arson)

🙂Ministry of Education and Kyoto prefecture decided a cancellation of a designation as National Treasure as well as a support for reconstruction of Kinkaku-ji.

🙂30 million yen (the value at the time) was collected as a result of governmental support and donations.

🙂Reconstruction was initiated in 1952. (Showa 27)

🙂The present structure was rebuilt in 1955 (Showa 30). October 10, ceremony was held to cerebrate a reconstruction. Original appearance was restored.

🙂A new coating as well as a gliding with gold-leaf, much thicker than the original coatings (0.5 um instead of 0.1 um) was completed in 1987.

🙂Additionally, the interior of the building, including the paintings and Yoshimitsu's statue and the roof was restored in 2003.

🙂The temple was designated as UNESCO World Heritage site in December 1994, as one of the 17 locations of Historical monuments of Ancient Kyoto.

🙂The arson case of Kinkakuji was described in the novels of Yukio Mishima and Tsutomu Minakami.

Thank you for reading! Please take care, and visit us when Covid-19 is stamped out. Ciao! Hiromi

I hope you enjoyed. --I'd like to hear from you...Please tell me what you think about my e-magazine.
Every comment will be very important for me. Thank you!


Hiromi Nishiwaki

Office Flora "JAPANOPHILE " Promotion was founded as a Japanese culture Research firm in 2017. We provide exciting information on Japanese Art and Culture and offer intellectual excitements though the prism of Hiromi Nishiwaki. We provide deep insights about Japanese traditional culture and Art from a Western perspective while keeping the core concepts from the Japanese Spiritual and traditional values intact. Our mission is to contribute to world happiness and prosperity.

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