A cultural bridge at Golden Pavilion in Japan

A Memorable Place

Readers' page

April 09, 2006|By ROBIN HOLLOWAY

My sister, daughter and I toured Japan last summer and were captivated by Kinkajuji, or the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto.

One of Japan's architectural masterpieces, the pagoda was started in 1397 when Ashikaga Yoshimitsu abdicated in favor of his son and began to build this villa as a retreat. By 1407 it was a large complex and village with numerous pagodas and temples. Upon his death a year later, the Golden Pavilion became a Zen temple. The temple was destroyed during a civil war in 1467, rebuilt, and destroyed again in 1567. By then, only the pavilion and an annex survived. The Golden Pavilion survived intact until July 3, 1950, when a novice monk, who apparently believed the aesthetic qualities of the pavilion detracted from religious concentration, burned it to the ground. It was rebuilt in 1957 and renovated in 1987.

Today, many Japanese schoolchildren visit the Golden Pavilion and its beautiful gardens daily to practice their English and mingle with tourists. We enjoyed the friendly, polite and inquisitive nature of the preteens as they asked numerous questions and carefully copied the answers into their notebooks.

The students were especially interested in friendly banter with my daughter, who had recently participated in a Japanese immersion program at Cornell University. She was uniquely able to share American teenage culture by switching back and forth between English and Japanese language to meet the needs of her newfound friends. They loved to talk about Britney Spears, the New York Yankees and even Elvis!

Robin Holloway lives in Salisbury.

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