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Golden World Heritage, Kinkakuji Temple (Rokuonji Temple) (Kyoto)

What is Kinkakuji Temple?

Kinkakuji Temple is said to be one of the major tourist attractions in Kyoto. Actually, its official name is not "Kinkakuji" but "Rokuonji. The temple was given the common name "Kinkaku-ji" because of the impact of the gorgeous Shariden Hall with its exterior walls covered with gold leaf. In 1994, the temple was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the "Monuments of Ancient Kyoto".

Location and Access

From JR Kyoto Station, take the 101 or 205 city bus to "Kinkakuji-do" and walk about 5 minutes.

History of Kinkakuji Temple

Rokuonji Temple was built by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the third shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate. The city of Kyoto was devastated during the Onin War in 1467. Most of Kinkakuji Temple was also destroyed by fire, but miraculously some buildings, such as the Shariden, escaped damage. After that, Kinkakuji overcame economic difficulties and the religious policies of the new government, but in 1950, the temple was completely destroyed by arson set by an apprentice monk. After learning of the damage, people from all over Japan donated money to rebuild the temple in 1955.

Highlights of Kinkakuji

  • Shariden

When one thinks of Kinkakuji, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the shining golden Shariden Hall. Shariden, which is also the origin of the temple's common name, is a three-story structure.

The first floor is the shinden-zukuri, a style of residence for aristocrats in the Heian period (794-1185). The second floor is a samurai residence of the Kamakura period (1185-1333), and the third floor is a Chinese-style residence. The third floor is a Chinese-style Zen Buddhist hall, with lacquered floors and gold leaf on the pillars and ceilings, where the relics of the Buddha are enshrined. The Shari-jeon is a unique fusion of three different architectural styles.

Some people may think that the entire surface of the hall is covered with gold leaf. In fact, only the second and third floors are covered with gold leaf.

  • Phoenix in the Shariden

At the top of the hall, a golden phoenix stands facing south. The reason why the phoenix was erected is not clear. However, there are various theories that emerge from several facts. The phoenix is said to anticipate the appearance of the emperor. Perhaps because Ashikaga Yoshimitsu wanted his son to be emperor. It was installed as a guardian deity to protect him from disasters. It was a symbol to wish for peace in Kyoto. The background of the construction has not yet been clarified.

  • Main gate

The main gate is the entrance to Kinkakuji Temple. A stone monument inscribed with the registration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is located at the right front of the main gate. If you look closely, you will see five lines on the earthen walls that run along both sides of the main gate. These lines are called "jogi suji," which indicate the height of the temple's prestige. There are three levels, from three to five lines, depending on the level of prestige, and of course, five lines are the highest. Of course, five is the highest,proving that Kinkakuji is a highly prestigious temple.

  • Rikusyu-no-matsu (Pine of Rikusyu)

The Rikusyu-no-matsu, as its name suggests, is a pine tree shaped like a boat, and is one of the "Three Great Pines of Kyoto" and is designated as a natural monument of the city. The pine tree was originally grown as a bonsai by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, who replanted it in the ground and arranged it in the shape of a boat. It is said that he wanted to go to the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss in the west on the pine tree boat, so the branches point to the west.

  • Mound of White Snake

There is another small pond in the precincts of Kinkakuji Temple, where a white five-ringed pagoda stands on a small island. It is called "White Snake Mound," and is a famous power spot for good fortune. It is said that if you can throw coins into the stone statue near the pagoda, you will be blessed with money.


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