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Notes on the Geography of Japan: Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji

These are the Golden and Silver Pavilions, built as private retreats but posthumously redesignated as Zen temples.

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One of Kyoto's icons, the Golden Pavilion was built by the third Ashikaga Shogun--Yoshimitsu by name--a fully qualified member of a dynasty whose members would have judged Macbeth a pansy. Still, Yoshimitsu was an esthete, and he designed here the paradise promised by the Amida Buddha. It contains all the elements shown on mandalas: a paradise garden, an Amida Buddha, a treasure hall, a pond, a holy place under trees, a place for music, a place for saints, and a place for angels and holy animals. The hall was originally more modest, with only the ceiling of the top floor gilt; the gaudier format today dates from 1955. Originally, the pond was covered with lotus; now it's mostly surrounded by people.

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The comparatively austere Silver Pavilion or Ginkakuji was built by Shogun Ashikaya Yoshimasa in 1479 but became a Rinzai Zen temple and monastery after his death. In near ruins by the 1890s, it has now been restored to a perhaps excessive degree of perfection. Still, its self-effacement seems philosophically truer to Zen Buddhism than does its now-flashy mate, Kinkakuji.

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"Perhaps excessive degree of perfection"? How about the entrance with these camellia hedges--as rigid as Versailles.

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You can see the line of the hedges behind that white signboard. In the left-center, the Silver Pavilion, behind the Brocade Mirror Pond. On the right, the Togu-do or East Seeking Hall, a temple for the Amida Buddha; in front of it, the Ginshandan (Sea of Silver Sand) garden. Walkways rise up the slope from which this picture was taken.

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Walkway around the pond.

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Path up the hill.

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Steps and bamboo railings.

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Just in case you weren't feeling sufficiently controlled!

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The use of bamboo is extraordinary, beautiful, and perhaps a tad compulsive.

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Organic architecture?

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Hard to beat for purity of form and simplicity of materials.

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