KYOTO--Excavations at Kinkakuji temple (Golden Pavilion) confirmed that another would-be water feature was built south of its Kyokochi pond, likely in the mid-Muromachi Period (1338-1573), but never filled.

The pond is believed to have been created in the late 14th century, the UNESCO World Heritage site in Kita Ward, also known as Rokuonji, announced Oct. 11.

The Kyoto City Archaeological Research Institute surveyed the site between June 2016 and August 2018 and discovered that the pool would have had three islets and measured up to 76 meters east to west and 45 meters north to south.

The pond was constructed around the same period as third Muromachi shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358-1408) commissioned Kitayama-dono, the shogun’s residence that was later replaced by Kinkakuji.

As foundation stones for a building were also unearthed northeast of the pond, the research institute estimates Yoshimitsu wanted to create a larger garden under the initial plan.

No clay layer to prevent water leaking or mud was found on the bottom of the pond, indicating the pool has never been filled with water.

The pond site is painted in “Kitayama Rokuonji Ezu” (Picture map of Kitayama Rokuonji), which was drawn in 1790 during the Edo Period (1603-1867), in a different color from that of Kyokochi, so the one in the painting almost certainly shows a waterless pond, according to the research institute.

Yoshimitsu died of illness about 10 years after moving to Kitayama-dono.

“The construction was likely suspended before supplying water to the pond, because Yoshimitsu died before its completion,” said Hisao Suzuki, an archaeology professor at Kyoto Sangyo University.

As an absence of signs of water indicates construction of the pond was suspended before its completion, the finding provides important pointers to how the temple venue may have changed during the course of its centuries-long history.

Located south of Kyokochi around the Golden Pavilion and stretching 115 meters east to west and 80 meters north to south, the former pond site is currently covered by a thicket.

“Kitayama Rokuonji Ezu” describes the site as a pond, so it was known that there used to be another pool on the precincts.

However, when and why the pond was developed remained unclear, earning it the nickname of a “mysterious pond site.”