The Temple of the Golden Pavilion – vocabulary

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion was originally written in Japanese by Yukio Mishima and then translated into English by Ivan Morris, who decides to leave some words untranslated. I thought it might be nice to keep all those words together in a list and add to it as I read the book.

Chapter One

keyaki (tree) – also called a Japanese elm. Its scientific name is Zelkova serrata, and it is a flowering deciduous tree of medium height. It is grown for ornamental purposes and typically has a short trunk and round canopy shape.

kempei-tai – the “Military Police Corps” that served like a secret police force for the Imperial Japanese Army from 1881 to 1945. A kempei is one member of the police force.

kaya (tree) – also called a Japanese nutmeg-yew. Its scientific name is Torreya nucifera. It is a deciduous tree of medium height with leaves like evergreen needles. The wood from this tree is highly valued, and the species is now protected after times of over-harvesting.


shinden-zukuri – a style of architecture used for mansions that was popular in the Heian period of 794 to 1185. The shinden is the main room and is typically on a north-south axis with a courtyard placed to the south. There is a specific symmetry to these estates and use of undeveloped space as a point of design. Buildings are connected by corridors. (Jessica – this layout should look familiar to you as it is based off a similar Chinese model seen in many of the Imperial buildings)

image source

more reading about shinden-zukuri

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