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The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

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3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  4,488 ratings  ·  239 reviews
In 1950, to the distress and honor of all art-loving and patriotic Japanese, the ancient Zen Temple of the Golden Pavilion was deliberately burned to the ground. This is the inciden from which Mishima has built his engrossing novel. But... he has employed the factual record merely as a scaffolding on which to erect a disturbing and powerful story of a sick young man's obse...more
Softcover, 262 pages
Published 1987 by Charles E. Tuttle Company (first published 1956)
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Paquita Maria Sanchez
Oh yes, you do so want to read this novel. I would mark the following synopsis as a "spoiler," but all is revealed in the introduction, and the events that inspired the book are about as big a mystery for the Japanese as what happened to the Titanic is to Westerners anyway, so don't go getting all sore with me like I'm maliciously ruining all your fun. We are being multicultural and pretending we already knew about this major historical event before hearing of and reading Mishima's novel. Who's...more
Jimmy
On 1 July 1950, during the Allied Occupation of Japan, a Buddhist monk by the name of Yoken Hayashi set fire to the Kinkaku-ji, or, as it is known in English ‘The Temple of the Golden Pavilion’. Yoken was a man of little consequence; a character in history, who, had he not committed such an acrimonious act, would not have been remembered today. He suffered from a debilitating stutter, and was considered ugly by many of his peers.

It is often conjectured that Yoken was either schizophrenic or suf...more
Stephen M
This book made me think of a term I learned in a psychology class called eidetic memory; a short look over at wikipedia will give a bit of a misleading definition. Eidetic memory, at least in the form that I learned it, is the short-term, instantaneous memory of visual images that, under certain theories, is stored for a very brief period of time before transferring into long term memory store. The effects of eidetic memory can be shown in a number of ways, but most famous is the optical illusio...more
Eddie Watkins
To make one Mishima take one dehydrated Dostoevsky; remove all hair and whiskers (go all the way! give old Dos a full Brazilian!) then polish to a steely sheen; carefully remove the heart and brain; take the heart between both hands and squeeze, using occult Buddhist techniques, until the heart’s emotional essence is drop by drop converted into intellectual conceits; collect these drops and add to brain; replace squeezed-out Dostoevsky heart with something pitiless; rehydrate with fanaticism and...more
Rowena
“To be sure, there are times when the reality of the outer world seems to be waiting for me, folding its arms as it were, while I was struggling to free myself. But the reality that is waiting for me is not a fresh reality. When finally I reach the outer world after all my efforts, all that I find is a reality that has instantly changed colour and gone out of focus- a reality that has lost the freshness that I had considered fitting for myself, and that gives off a half-putrid odour."

Mishima is...more
Jeremy
How wonderfully freaked out is this book? It's about a young, introverted zen priest who becomes obssessed with a six hundred year old temple to the exclusion of everything else in his life, and then decides it has to be burned down to the ground. And it actually happened! Mishima is just brilliant at sucking you into the world of Mizoguchi's damaged neurosis. And almost every paragraph has at least one mind-fuck brilliant observation about beauty, ugliness, love, obsession, destruction, what ha...more
Chris
Mishima is one of the most famous modern Japanese writers and, near as I can tell, a complete nutjob. Or was, anyway. He killed himself by seppuku back in 1970.

Kinkakuji is one of his most famous works, and I chose it as a first entry into Mishima because I love reading books set in Kyoto and, well, I've been to Kinkakuji a few times.

My reaction upon seeing it was a lot like the main character's - disappointment. In the book, a young Mizuguchi is told by his father that the Golden Temple is the...more
Emeraldia Ayakashi
Mishima slips into the skin of young Mizoguchi, this Buddhist monk who deliberately set fire to the Temple of the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto, considered a national treasure.

Based on real events, Mishima traces the personal journey of the monk, in a narrative device that reflects both a countdown type 24 hours flat as a poetic meditation. Struck with physical disabilities, Mizoguchi is, at first, overwhelmed by the beauty of the temple it is not yet known. The reader is then immersed in the psyche...more
Nick
This book is one of the most singularly moving works that I've ever read in my life.
Sayo
the best book ever written. at least in Japan. definitely the most beautiful
John
Yukio Mishima's The Temple of the Golden Pavilion is a meditation on the relationship between words and action, beauty and ugliness, and Being and nothingness. In this book, which is one of Mishima's best novels, these themes are treated with considerable patience and depth, giving readers great insight into the philosophical issues that preoccupied Mishima for the entirety of his writing career; all the way up to his own ritual suicide by seppuku in 1970.
The plot of the story concerns a Japan...more
Black Elephants
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Jasminka

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion is an excellent psychological novel, complex, disturbing, perceptive, with Zen references and metaphors. Sometimes I felt depressed and really bored reading almost repetitive details and paragraphs, but I really enjoyed the Mishima's beautiful writing style (that is the reason why I gave the book 4 instead of 3 stars!). Also, it is a slow read, mainly because I found the main character so distasteful and irritating, so I couldn't sympathize with him. I found abs...more
Andrew
Only the Japanese can write books like this, I feel. Lyrically beautiful, aesthetically driven, thoroughly homoerotic, unsettlingly fascist at points, violently modernist, violently anti-modernist, violently violent, operatically melodramatic, sexually repressed, profoundly Buddhist, religious, anti-religious, and set in a landscape of burned temples and told by a misanthropic outsider. Lord I want to go there.
Brian
On July 1st, 1950, Kinkakuji was burned down by a young monk named Hayashi Yōken. He was imprisoned, but later released due to mental illness, and then died of tuberculosis before his sentence would have been up. To this day, it's not entirely clear why he did it, other than his own comment on it:
Although I had planned it from the time I made the purchase [of sleeping medicine], even now I do not believe that I have done anything wrong. It is said that a national treasure has been burned, but th
...more
Trevor
My first venture into the literature of the infamous Yukio Mishima proved, unfortunately, to be a disappointing one. I cannot fault Mishima for his prose – he is, in fact, a very gifted writer, and I have heard that his mastery of the pen is even more apparent when read in the original Japanese. My criticism is one of personal taste, perhaps born of my Western sensibilities. From start to finish Mishima persists in abstract philosophizing that is never quite as profound as the beautiful (albeit,...more
Isaac Cooper
I can’t tell you how much, dear reader, I loathe abandoning a book. I don’t do it lightly. It’s not something that I do willy-nilly. It’s not a pleasant experience, abandoning a book. It’s kind of like a break-up. Maybe there was something once in the relationship that really made it work, but you know in your heart you have to break up. Just like I know in my heart I have to stop reading a book, for whatever reason.

Hell, sometimes I abandon books that aren’t terrible, like Blood Meridian or …...more
Mikael Kuoppala
Yukio Mishima's odd examination on beauty and the way aesthetics play a role in all of human existence and interaction. The book has an air to it that reminded me of the French existentialists- a common trait in many classic Japanese works of literature I have read.

Through a first person narrative Mishima builds a personal history of Mizoguchi, a man obsessed with beauty in all its forms, enchanting and destructive alike. The culmination of all those forms of beauty is the Temple of the Golden P...more
Veronika KaoruSaionji
This is my (till today - I don´t read all his works) least favorite book of Mishima. I like him and his work. And this is good book. But, Mishima was gay. I love his books from viewpoint of gay hero, or confused possibly gay boy :o) or female heroine, he is great in it! But there is main hero heterosexual boy/young man, who loves only women. And he is psychopat. This plot was about real person, young monk Hayashi who was in love/hate relationship with beautiful building of Golden Pavillon in Kyo...more
Karlo Mikhail
Yukio Mishima’s The Temple of the Golden Pavilion is a novel that gives the reader remarkable insights into the convoluted realm of the human psyche. The story of a Buddhist acolyte who burned one of Japan’s historical and cultural landmarks shortly after the Second World War gives us a glimpse of what an extreme instance of an individual’s failure of integration into society might bring.

One is never naturally born into reality. In order for one to live and act as a normal individual who interac...more
Art
This was the first book by Mishima for me. It is poetic and complex with beautifully written passages and deep multilayered but unlikable characters. The psychological dynamics of the central protagonist seem unfathomable at times, and I have to wonder whether this is the result of a cultural difference (from the original Japanese -- and my wife read it in that language, her native tongue, but we still don't know) or the fact that the character is, by definition, messed up. Based on a true story...more
Salvatore
What Melville did for 'confidence' in The Confidence-Man, Mishima does for 'beauty' in The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. This is a philosophical novel on the quest for and destruction of beauty, in all of its forms - how beauty comes to us, how beauty weighs us down, and how what we think of beauty may not actually be it. Is it a golden temple, or is it a successful sexual outing, or is it smoking a cigarette, or is it knowing something that the narrator does not? Why do we bring so much baggag...more
Robert Albrecht
An exploration of beauty, the chasm between idea and action, and the dark depths of a youth trapped in isolation. The protagonist and narrator, Mizuguchi, finds himself enthralled by the beauty of the famous Kinkakuji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), and feeling a shame stemming from his own ugliness, decides he must destroy it.

Though this is certainly a fictional work, Mishima based his story on a real event, namely the incineration of the Kinkakuji on the same day as told in the book by a monk...more
Sarah
I chose to read The Temple of the Golden Pavilion because I was looking for some dark Japanese literature, and I certainly found it. The story is based around the real event of a young Buddhist monk burning down an ancient temple. The book tells of a man who is an outsider, plagued by stuttering, and becomes obsessed with the Golden Temple from a young age. The temple haunts him, it is everything to him, all that he can think of. He can see the temple and hence the world in ways that noone else...more
Nam Pham
I first knew Yukio Mishima as the subject matter of Eikoh Hosoe's Ordeal by Roses, a dark and surreal photo book and a great representative of Butoh movement.

In 'Golden Pavilion', I seem to catch the same dramatic imagery of Mishima. This discourse on beauty is fused with connection to destruction, confusion and dualism - to the extent that it is necessary to translate one extreme by meaning of the other. There I can feel the insecurity and an ever changing perception of beauty - as I questione...more
John Levi Masuli
An exquisite incision of the human mind. The plot is riveting, but it lacks a consistent tension. Some parts are somewhat too much. Mishima has a penchant for description,and truthfuly, I like that, but some of these in this novel bored me. Maybe I was not in the mood for it. The best slice of the book is its memorable characters. Mizoguchi is okay, insane but not too alienated from many of us; Kashiwagi is one of the most demented characters I have ever encountered in fiction; the prostitute; t...more
umberto
I simply didn't agree with a review somewhere that mentioned this novel in terms of its 'philosophical' view as cumulatively initiated, grasped and executed by setting fire to demolish the Golden Temple, the unique, historic, national temple of unsurpassed elegance and beauty in Japan. From its 10-chapter, 247-page content, we can read and see that it's started from Mizoguchi's mind, therefore, this is a matter of 'psychological' abnormality leading to the unthinkable arson.
Jamie
Mishima is a fantastic writer who often delves into troubled souls. The protagonist is the son of a popular if weak zen monk. Told in first person, the books writes about a loner who often feels helpless, becomes bitter and lashes out in often perverse anger. The tale is told matter of factly. As a boy, the most beautiful thing he ever saw was the ancient and very beautiful Temple of the Golden Pavilion. WWII first looms and then occurs. Through his Father's connections, our protagonist is assig...more
Alex
Inspired by the true story of the "crazed" monk who burnt down Kyoto's famous Golden Temple, Mishima's novel is a thoughtful portrayal of a confused young man and the general identity crisis afflicting Japan following WWII. I loved the main character's narration but didn't always care for the drawn-out, rambling dialogue of his friend Kashiwagi. The prose also gets a bit repetitive at times. But even though I knew how it ended, I was still wholly absorbed by the tale.
Christian
I have been meaning to read Mishima for some time, probably as intrigued by the author himself as by the reputation of his work. Crazy he may have been, but there can't be many major authors with a backstory to top this guy. Anyway, now that I've started with Mishima, I'm quite sure that I won't be able to stop.

Dark and uncompromising in tone, the slow pace of events in this book allows for an absorbing exploration of the central character's disturbing psyche and the motivations behind his infam...more
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Japanese Literature: The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (金閣寺) 7 33 Nov 15, 2011 01:25PM  
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Yukio Mishima (三島 由紀夫) is the pen name of Kimitake Hiraoka (平岡 公威) who was a Japanese author, poet and playwright, famous for both his highly notable post-war writings and the circumstances of his ritual suicide by seppuku.

Mishima wrote 40 novels, 18 plays, 20 books of short stories, and at least 20 books of essays, one libretto, as well as one film. A large portion of this oeuvre comprises books...more
More about Yukio Mishima...
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“What transforms this world is — knowledge. Do you see what I mean? Nothing else can change anything in this world. Knowledge alone is capable of transforming the world, while at the same time leaving it exactly as it is. When you look at the world with knowledge, you realize that things are unchangeable and at the same time are constantly being transformed.” 171 likes
“Anything can become excusable when seen from the standpoint of the result” 39 likes
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