Many people know of the very famous building Kinkakuji in Kyoto, the Golden Pavilion. Few people are aware of the golden hall, Konjikido, which stands in Iwate prefecture. Entirely covered in gold, Konjikido is a sight to behold.
The Tendai sect of Buddhism originated in 805. The founder, Saicho, was influenced strongly by his trip to China where he experienced Tiantai Buddhism. The center of Tendai Buddhism was on Mount Hiei near Kyoto. Esoteric Buddhism was very important in Tendai teachings. The goal of Tendai was to strive for enlightenment, but contrary to other sects, they believed this could be achieved in their current lives. For many years Tendai Buddhism was the main sect in Japan, favoured by the Imperial house of Kyoto. Tendai also managed to bridge the gap between Buddhism and Shinto, the native Japanese religion. Their thoughts were that the Kami, or Shinto gods, were put onto earth to help mankind and were equivalent of Buddhas.
In 850 Chusonji temple was founded in Hiraizumi, Iwate prefecture. The noble and strong Fujiwara clan moved their headquarters to Hiraizumi and built an extensive network of temples and buildings on this site. The Fujiwara family controlled most politics during the Heian period for hundreds of years. This was thanks to strategic intermarriages and the occupation of elevated seats in Kyoto. This rule lasted until 1068 when the Fujiwara family did not have influence over the newest Emperor Go-Sanjo. This was not the end of the Fujiwara, however, it was the end of their great influence which declined over many years. Due to this public order decreased and the samurai class rose. Due to their failing power they lost their base in Hiraizumi in the 12th century. Thankfully the most stunning of all their buildings survived – that is Konjikido.
Dating back to 1124, Konjikido is completed coated in gold. The hall was built as a mausoleum to the Fujiwara lords. To honour them it was coated in gold and decorated with imported mother of pearl. Konjikido has a building built around it for protection. Generally, photographs to the hall are prohibited.
The hall is truly a sight to behold and really shows the wealth and richness of culture of ancient Japan. If you travel to the area there are also other buildings of note, such as Chusonji and Motsuji. At these temples you can experience zazen meditation, and a kind monk will even hit your shoulder with a stick to help you concentrate while meditating.