The Temple of the Golden Pavilion – Tsukumogami

Towards the end of the book, Mizoguchi considers his next big action (and if you know anything about the book, you know what I’m talking about) to be something that would “open the eyes of men to the disasters of the Tsukumogami and save them from those disasters.”

Tsukumogami are part of Japanese folklore and were also used in some Buddhist teachings. They are household items (silverware, pots, brooms, so on) that, having ‘served’ for 100 years, receive their own souls. They are mostly harmless, maybe mischievous and happy to prank their past owners, or maybe angry if they were mistreated or broken…

There are stories of specific types of Tsukumogami; some are loyal and kind, others are characterized as malevolent. Many seek the company of their own kind. The abumi-guchi was once a stirrup. Upon becoming a Tsukumogami, he lies and waits for his soldier, who is probably deceased, to return for him. Boroborotons were once futons. Those that were neglected may wander the house at night and throw people off their beds or even try to strangle them (unfortunately, it isn’t the only item that tends to want to strangle you…). Others might just throw a party with the other Tsukumogami of the house while you’re away. Koto-furunushis are the Tsukumogami of koto instruments. Those that were played often and with love are often content and will perform songs for you, especially the ones that you practiced often. Kotos that are neglected, however, turn sad and run away with other Tsukumogami.


Thus before spring equinox, you should conduct a “house-sweeping”, where one gathers all the old items and utensils in the house and throws them out. Still worried? Consider building a shrine for the items you have broken and neglected and apologize!

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion – a Pairing


Acrylic study per Emil Nolde by Zdenka Better

I did not understand what was happening, but I, too, left the Golden Temple and began running along the edge of the pond. When I reached the girl, the long-legged American had already caught up with her and was grasping her by the lapels of her red overcoat. – Mishima

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion – excerpt

Three parts of the temple were strikingly white – the roofs of the Kukyocho and the Choondo and the little roof of the Sosei. The rest of the uninhabited building was dark, and there was rather something fresh about the blackness of the complicated, wooden structure that stood out in relief against the snow. — Mishima

zozoji temple Zozoji Temple in Snow by Kawase Hasui

kinkakuji temple Kinkaku-ji Temple (which the novel is based off of) covered in snow in real life!

The other prints of Zozoji Temple in Snow by Hasui are also excellent and can be found here.

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion – daily schedule

The protagonist, Mizoguchi, of The Temple of Golden Pavilion joins the titular temple to study as a young boy in the summer. There he, like other monks across different sects and religions, must follow a strict routine. Mishima details a day in the temple.

  • 5 o’clock: “opening of the rules” or waking up. Members of the temple are woken by the sound of a bell.
  • first morning task: recite sutras three times, also called “triple return”
  • second morning task: sweep and mop the temple floors
  • breakfast meal: breakfast is also called the “gruel session” and is eaten while listening to a “gruel-session sutra”
  • daily tasks: after breakfast, everyone had tasks related to the maintenance of the temple – picking weeds, chopping wood, cleaning, etc. Mizoguchi has the particular task of delivering the newspaper to the Superior.
  • school: Mizoguchi and the other young boys at the temple then walk to the nearby school together
  • evening meal: once they’ve walked back from school, it is about time for evening meal, also called “medicine”
  • post-meal lecture: after having his medicine, the Superior of the temple gives a lecture on the sacred scriptures
  • 9 o’clock: “opening of the pillow” or bedtime

Can you imagine getting so much done before even getting to school? I certainly can’t. My favorite thing about their schedule is the term “opening of the pillow” — it sounds very nice and soft.

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