During my recent bonsai residency in Osaka, I had only four days off and I used them to visit some temple gardens in Kansai area. One of them was Kinkaku-ji. Looking-up “the Golden Pavilion” on the Internet parades a long string of idyllic images like the one above left. The image above right however, shows the reality behind those “heavenly” shots. During my visit, the temple was crowded and noisy. Getting to one of the better look-out points required a combination of waiting in a queue and pushing through people.
On a different topic, Kinkaku-ji has a small place in the bonsai lore. Its garden features a 600 year-old pine that goes by the name ‘Rikusho-no-Matsu’ (see the image below). The tree was originally a bonsai planted in the ground by shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358 – 1408). The place was his house at that time and he was just planting a tree in the garden. These days, the tree is shaped as a sailing boat, which is reportedly heading to the "Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss". Let’s not get too excited, it’s only a tree.