Gold Is Good, But Not Necessarily The Best Garden

Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, was first built around 1400. It predated and served as a model for the Temple of the Silver Pavilion (Ginkaku-ji), which I wrote about in my last post. (It took me a long time to remember which pavilion was silver and which was gold. Ultimately I was able to keep it straight by remembering that even though Ginkaku-ji starts with G, it is NOT the Gold Pavilion. Or you can tell yourself that gold is kinky.)


Kinkaku-ji has been burned to the ground more than once. It was reconstructed most recently, based on the original design, in 1955.


The most striking feature of Kinkaku-ji are the garden views of the temple itself, which is decorated with gold leaf. The structure sits on the shore of a pond, with a background of verdant trees.


The Temple houses what are believed to be relics of the Buddha. You cannot go inside, but you can see a bit from across the pond.


Considering that the building has been burnt down multiple times, the phoenix is an appropriate roof ornament.


Thanks to Judy’s considerable patience and photographic skills, most of the pictures in this post feel as if we were the only people there. The reality is better reflected by the picture above. We got to Kinkaku-ji just as it opened in the morning, and there was already an enormous line.

The Garden of the Golden Pavilion attracts many more visitors than Ginkaku-ji, perhaps because it really is covered in a precious metal, which the Temple of the Silver Pavilion is not. However, if I could only see one of these two, it would be the Silver Pavilion.


Which is not to say that Kinkaku-ji isn’t worth visiting – it is. However, the garden layout is very similar to Ginkaku-ji: a temple on a pond, a path leading up to the top of a hill with a view. By the way, do you see the little patches of white in the trees above?


Those are arborists at work pruning and shaping the trees. I wanted to congratulate them on their impressive skills, but for several reasons that was not practical.


We saw several butterflies at Kinkaku-ji – I think the same kind that I saw at the field of Cosmos in Hama Rikyu.


Anyway, as I was saying, the gardens at Ginkaku-ji and Kinkaku-ji are quite similar, but the one at Ginkaku-ji is simply much more exquisite.


There is a good deal of moss at Kinkaku-ji, but it is not as lush as at the Silver Pavilion, and some of it had turned brown. Perhaps Kinkaku-ji is a drier site.


Very nice waterfall, but the one at Ginkaku-ji is better.


A lovely vignette with ferns, stones, and a tiny stream of water.


I really admired some of the stonework at Kinkaku-ji, like this unusual path. Talk about a rocky road.


Also this dry stream bed. Nice.


Not sure if that one sculpture constitutes a shrine. In any case, another alluring garden view.


From the top of the hill you can see the Golden Pavilion and much of the garden below, but nothing of the city beyond, if I recall correctly.

Still a few more posts to come on our trip to Japan. I’m starting to feel like my Uncle Samuel who bored everybody when I was a child with projector slides (remember those?) of his last trip to Florida. Florida seemed to be the only place Uncle Samuel ever went. Also, for about ten years he asked me every time he saw me if I played football. The answer, which never changed, was no.

What does this have to do with Japan? Nothing, but it indicates that I should bring this post to an end.

27 Comments on “Gold Is Good, But Not Necessarily The Best Garden”

  1. Not boring at all! I have enjoyed “traveling” with you and Judy. What makes descriptions, whether verbal or in writing, interesting is knowing what to edit and what to include. Not all people have a good sense of this—your uncle, perhaps?—but you certainly do.

  2. Oh no Uncle Sam, I mean Jason… đŸ˜‰ You aren’t boring anyone. Especially we who will probably never get the opportunity to see any of this in person. I love reading about this type of garden. Your narrative and Judy’s photos truly bring it all to life.

  3. This isn’t boring at all. More than likely I’ll never travel to Japan to see its gardens so this is as close as it gets for me. Even if you felt this garden was somewhat inferior to the Silver Pavilion, I still think it’s beautiful.

  4. I was wondering why we never see gardeners at work, but they were pretty well hidden up in the trees! I also prefer the Silver Pavilion for its garden, but the Golden Pavilion does have a certain something that should not be missed. I am still looking forward to more posts Jason – definitely not boring!

  5. I think your posts will help me have a better appreciation of Japanese gardens. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate them before but perhaps I was not mindful enough when in one. I hope to pay another visit to the Japanese Garden in Portland this year, my first since Fling.

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