Thursday, 30 July 2015

[Kyoto] - Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion

Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion - A must visit heritage site in Kyoto | by Meheartseoul
On our way from Nijō Castle to Kinkakuji (金閣寺, Golden Pavilion), our guide fed us some history about this Zen temple. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
 Recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage, 
Kinkaku-ji is one of the most representative historical buildings in Japan. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
The site of Kinkaku-ji was originally a villa called Kitayama-dai, 
owned by powerful statesman, Saionji Kintsune. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
 Kinkaku-ji's history dates to 1397, when the villa was purchased from the Saionji family
by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and transformed into the Kinkaku-ji complex.
 When Yoshimitsu died, the building was converted into a Zen temple 
by his son, according to his wishes. (Wikipedia) | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
The version I heard from the tour guide was more complicated, 
but I remembered that our guide said to show his filial piety, 
his son who built this temple. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
 Pure gold leaf foil on lacquer covered the upper top two levels
of the pavilion boasts its grandeur majestic view.

It blends well with lush green background and big mirror pond (鏡湖池 = Kyōko-chi), which designed to harmony between heaven and earth. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
The gold color is believed to purify any negative thoughts and feelings towards death. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
Kinkakuji was built to echo the extravagant Kitayama culture that developed in 
the wealthy aristocratic circles of Kyoto during Yoshimitsu's times. 
Each floor represents a different style of architecture. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
The building was an important model for Ginkaku-ji 
(Silver Pavilion Temple) and Shōkoku-ji in Kyoto. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion 
 The first floor is built in the Shinden style used for palace buildings during 
the Heian Period, with its natural wood pillars and white plaster walls 
contrasts yet complements the gilded upper stories of the pavilion. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
 The first floor pavilion is called The Chamber of Dharma Waters, 
which functions as Shariden, housing relics of the Buddha (Buddha's Ashes). 
You can only view the statues from across the pond from the front windows, 
because it is not allowed to enter the pavilion. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
The second floor built in the Bukke style used in samurai residences.
This Buddha Hall (Butsuden) is called Tower of Sound Waves. 
Inside seated Bodhisattva Kannon (Guānyīn) and 
guarded by Shitenno (Four Heavenly Kings). | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion 
The uppermost third floor built in Chinese Zen style with cusped windows and ornaments. 
 Appropriately, it houses an Amida triad and twenty-five Bodhisattvas. 

A shinning golden phoenix capped on top of the shingled roof. Overall, Kinkaku is representative of Muromachi-period architecture. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
Rear view of  Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion with Tsuridono (fishing deck).

Kinkakuji implemented the idea of borrowed scenery that integrates the outside and the inside, creating an extension of the views surrounding the pavilion and connecting it with the outside world. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
From Golden pavilion, we walked pass by this Living quarters (Hojo) 
of the former head priest, but it's also not open to public. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion  
 This Hojo is famous for the painted sliding doors (Fusuma). | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
Pretty interesting 600 years old pine tree... it looks like a sailing ship.

This tree gives the impression of sailing towards the Buddhist Pure Land. Though the temple has been burnt numerous times by war and by arson by a monk in 1950, this tree has survived all the fire disasters. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
Behind the pavilion, there's another small pond called Anmintaku 
where White Snake Mound located. 

It said that Ashikaga Yoshimitsu had many mistresses. One of them was deeply jealous of the others, and threw herself into the pond and became white snake. Yoshimitsu built the stone pagoda to console her soul. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
Hakujanotsuka (Stone Pagoda in memory of White Snake).
People tossing coins at the statues for good luck.

Then the guide brought us to temple's garden Kaiyūshikiteien. This strolling garden is designed to be a Buddhist paradise based on the Western Pure Land of Amida Nyorai (Amitābha Buddha) and with each step you feel more tranquil. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
 The Golden Pavilion is set in a magnificent Japanese strolling garden. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
'Toryumon' The Dragon Waterfall. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
This waterfall is designed to look like a carp fish 
swimming upstream against the fiercely waterfall. 

According to Chinese legend, any fish who can swim up a waterfall will turn into a Dragon. So this waterfall literally means Gateway to success, which convey the message that people who overcome challenges or great difficulties will be successful. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
Toryumon also symbolized Ashikaga Yoshimitsu's successful life.

Yoshimitsu became a Shogun at 11. At that point of time when the Northern and Southern Japanese dynasties were fighting. He managed to unify the nation and restore relationships with Ming Dynasty at the age of 46. His life did seem like this carp fish swimming against the waterfall! | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
Silver river stream. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
Foot spa during Edo period?! | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
'Sekka-tei' classic tea house.

This tearoom was restored in 1997 after the original structure burnt down in 1950. It's the oldest building left of the one built during the Edo Period. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
During the Edo Period, this detached teahouse was the entertainment building 
for important visitors. To mark its importance, there is a celebrated pillar 
made of  nandina wood (heavenly bamboo). | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
It said that it's especially beautiful to see Golden Pavilion 
from Sekka-tei cottage in the late afternoon sun. 
Therefore, it's named Sekkatei (Place of Evening Beauty). | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
Walked down the hill, you'll see crowds in front of this small shrine, Fudō-do.

The shrine main image is a stone statue of Buddhist deity Fudo-myo-o (Acala, one of the Five Buddhist Wisdom Kings and Protector of Buddhism). | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
The statue was made by Kobo-Daishi, the founder of the Shingon sect in the 9th century.  

Open door rituals are held on Setsubun on 3 February and 16 August. The statue is normally hidden from public view, but believed to have miraculous powers! | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
Instead of lining up to ring the bells to awake the deities, 
we lighted candles and pray that our precious Xuan and Zhi
have wisdom and excel in their study | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
 Hundreds of Ema (絵馬  wooden plaques) hanging on the stand next to the shrine.
 You can buy the board and write your prayers or wishes and hang it here,
and the kami (spirits or gods) will receive and grant your wishes~^^

Amongst so many pictures like Japanese Maneki-neko Fortune Cat, Gods or Deities, my favorite Ema is Little iconoclastic Japanese Zen Buddhist monk 'Ikkyu' with Golden Pavilion. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
Tourists busy tasting samples food, nuts, mochi from the teahouse and souvenir shops... | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
Love the vintage and rustic ambiance here... | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
It's like being transported back in time to Edo era. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
People streaming out from Kinkaku-ji from this wooden gate. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
The tour ended here, and we'd to walk out from this vast and stunning temple ground
and go to the next destination... Heian Shrine. | Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
Admission ticket to Kinkakuji, which is also function as talisman 
to protect family and lucky charm to bring fortune and wealth.

According to our guide, Japanese believe black and white colors represent luck and fortune, unlike Chinese associated these colors with funeral / death. White symbolizes good luck and happiness, black color for good health and ward off evil spirits. This is also why Maneki-neko Fortune cat has tri-color beckoning good luck, wealth, prosperity.

Website: Kinkaku-ji (in Japanese)
Address: 1 Kinkakuji-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Opening hours: 9am-5pm
Admission: Adult (400 Yen), Student (300 Yen)
Directions:  Kyoto Station by City Bus number 101 or 205 (40 minutes) or Karasuma Subway Line to Kitaoji Station (15 minutes)

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Wednesday, 22 July 2015

[Kyoto] - Nijō Castle (二条城)

Nijō Castle - A must visit heritage site in Kyoto | by Meheartseoul
Kyoto is a charming city with multihued local customs and rich in traditions. Flourished as the capital of Japan for as long as 1000 years after 794.  Kyoto nestled 13 temples, 3 shrines and the Nijo Castle.

Excited to see the itinerary as we'll visiting World Heritage sites in Kyoto: Nijō Castle (二条城), Rokuon-ji / Temple of the Golden Pavilion (鹿苑寺/金閣寺), Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺). | Nijō Castle (二条城)
 Nijo Castle was our first stop, as it's near to Hotel Granvia Kyoto
About 15 minutes coach ride from Kyoto Station. | Nijō Castle (二条城) 
Are you sure this photo was taken around 9:00 am? | Nijō Castle (二条城)
 Ninomaru Higashi-otemon (higashi = east and mon = gate) 
has sturdy and strong gate to defend against enemy attack! | Nijō Castle (二条城)
 Let's learn more about Japanese culture and 
history of epic Shoguns and Samurais... | Nijō Castle (二条城) 
 Introduction of Nijo Castle - UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994
in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean languages. | Nijō Castle (二条城)
 No worry... just listen to our experience tour guide.
Do you think he look like Japanese more than Taiwanese?
Especially when he speaks Japanese... wow!!! | Nijō Castle (二条城)
 The castle was originally built in 1603 as the official residence
of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Shogun of Edo Period.

Tokugawa used Edo as the capital city, but Kyoto continued to be the home of the Imperial Court. Kyoto Imperial Palace is located north-east of Nijo Castle. | Nijō Castle (二条城)
  Beautiful Ninomaru-goten Karamon has decorative Chinese-style roof ceiling. | Nijō Castle (二条城)

Showtime of Shogun and Samurais begin from this Karamon gate! | Nijō Castle (二条城)
I heard footsteps on the rooftop! Flying Ninja?! OMG~! | Nijō Castle (二条城)
Kurumayose entrance way decorated with ranma-chokoku (a carved transom and 
a decorative frieze consisting of carved panels fixed above the head of a door).

On the front is depicted are five luan (a mythical Chinese bird), pine trees, peonies and at the top clouds, and at the bottom you can see grass. On the roof is cypress bark and the base is made of squared masonry.
Inner Map of Nijo Castle.

Nijo Castle is one of the epitome of early Edo period and Momoyama culture in Japan with splendid building designs, lavish paintings and carvings that generously commissioned.

First of all, you need to take off your shoes before entering 3300 square meter Ninomaru Palace. It consists of 5 connected separate buildings with made of Hinoki cypress wooden floor. The palace rooms are tatami mat covered | Nijō Castle (二条城)

Do note that no photography is allowed inside too. It's to protect the original colors of replica paintings on wall paintings. | Nijō Castle (二条城)

Nightingale floors (Uguisubari) welcoming us with the squeaking sound like birds chirping when we stepped on it. The squeaking sound is not produced by the floorboard, but by the offset metal hinges triggered when it's under pressure.

Too many people inside, so no matter how soft I walked or slided, the floor bed still squeaked~~~! I need to learn from Ninja how to traverse a nightingale floor without making sound.

According to my guide Ninjas aware of this deadly alarm, because once it squeaked, the occupants will send Samurais out. Therefore, as what we normally watch in movie scenes... they have to 'fly' on the roof to avoid this nightingale board. This is the only way to attack occupants without knowing their presence. | Nijō Castle (二条城)

Entering the building, you can see few chambers, offices and the living quarters of the shoguns. Some of the rooms have mannequins of Shogun and and his subordinates, officers and attendants.

Our tour guide explained to us, but somehow my Chinese language skill only for basic conversation. It's kinda hard for me to understand. Scratched my head with all these new and unfamiliar words!

To make it worse, there's a tour guide using loudspeaker to explained in strange and unfamiliar foreign language. What?!! Ok... Alright, you won! I'd to off my ears and on my eyes to admire those impressive classical wall and screen paintings. | Nijō Castle (二条城)
 These are some of the paintings found inside
the castle, and you can buy for souvenirs. | Nijō Castle (二条城)
Icecream from teahouse / souvenir shop to cold my head
before proceeding to next destination... Golden Pavilion. | Nijō Castle (二条城)
 Bansho (Guard House) at the back,
previously 50 Samurais were stationed there at a time. | Nijō Castle (二条城)
The entire castle grounds and the Honmaru are surrounded by 
huge stone walls and deep moats. 

 Nijo Castle truly demonstrates the power that the Shoguns wielded over the emperors in Japan throughout Edo period. | Nijō Castle (二条城)
Add: 541 Nijojo-cho, Nijo-dori, Horikawa Nishi iru, Nakagyo-ku
 Hours and Fees Hours 8:45 to 17:00 (admission until 16:00) 
Entry to Ninomaru from 9:00 to 16:00 
English audio guides are available for 500 yen.

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