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July 2 marks the 70th anniversary of the burning of Kinkakuji temple

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Kinkakuji, one of Kyoto's most famous Zen temples, was destroyed in a fire exactly 70 years ago today.

Taizan Egami, 84, who was a 14-year-old novice monk at the time, was awakened around 3 a.m. by unfamiliar sounds. Seeing reflections of dancing flames on a shoji sliding paper door, he dashed out in alarm. A pillar of fire was shooting up into the sky.

"Pine needles made a rushing sound," Egami recalled. "Neither a water sprinkler nor fire-extinguishing sand was of any use."

The ferocity of the fire was such that everybody simply stood around in horror. Sparks flew like fireworks and showered over Kyoko-chi pond, which surrounded the temple's pavilion.

Dawn had broken by the time a 21-year-old........

© The Asahi Shimbun