Kyoto is one of the best tourist destinations in all of Japan. Ginkakuji Temple is a World Heritage Site surrounded by lush vegetation. Sitting on the opposite wall of the valley from the Golden Pavilion, on the eastern side sits the Silver Pavilion.
In the late 15th century, Ginkakuji Temple was built as the retirement villa for the shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa. If you have previously visited the Kinkakuji Temple, then you might see some similarities. In fact, this temple was modeled after Kinkakuji Temple, the Zen temple converted villa which was built for Yoshimasa’s grandfather. Much like his grandfather, this villa was also converted into a Zen temple following the death of Yoshimasa. Ginkakuji Temple actually consists of several buildings, including a meticulously designed moss garden and a sand garden.
The Path of Philosophy is a pedestrian path with cherry trees and a canal. The path connects Ginkakuji and Nanzenji. Kitaro Nishida was a Japanese philosopher at Kyoto University, it is said that he used this path for daily meditation. Honen-in, Otoyo Shrine, and Eikan-do Zenrin-ji is along the way and the whole path is about a 30 minute walk. This is a popular spot for Hanami or flower viewing.
Upon entering Ginkakuji Temple, you are greeted by the Kannon Hall which houses a statue of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Unfortunately, the interior of this particular building is not open to the public. Kinkakuji Temple is actually gold but Ginkakuji Temple is not silver. Rather, it is though of as a nickname to contrast Kinkakuji Temple. However, people also claim that the name was given due to the bright moonlight reflecting off the dark facade of the buildings. This isn’t as apparent now, but the buildings were originally covered in black lacquer which had higher reflective properties. Something that Ginkakuji Temple has over the Kinkakuji Temple is the preservation of the buildings. To be exact, there are two buildings including the pavilion, that have survived all the fires and earthquakes over the past several hundred years. Although it was consistently renovated through the years, most of the structure is original.
Continuing along the path, you will run into a sand garden, otherwise known as the “Sea of Silver Sand.” This sand garden is meticulously maintained and there isn’t a single grain of sand out of place. Right next to the garden stands the main hall. This hall is characterized by the paintings on the sliding doors but unfortunately, this building is also off limits to the public. The next building over is the Togudo. This building dates back to the founding of the temple grounds and a 4.5 tatami mat house. This style of room is one of the oldest example of what most contemporary tatami mat rooms are designed after. The last place you will come across is the moss garden. This garden features ponds and small islands as well as streams. The path itself winds behind the buildings and up a small hill to a small opening providing a vantage point of Ginkakuji Temple with Kyoto as the backdrop.
This serene destination offers a gorgeous example of Kyoto’s traditional architecture as well things that are unique to Ginkakuji Temple. From the darker building to the sand garden, you will find a different kind of peace compared to Kinkakuji Temple. Take your time when visiting and truly take in everything the temple has to offer.
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Address: 2 Ginkakujicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
10 minute walk from Ginkakujido bus station
6 minute walk from Ginkakujimae bus station
Hours: 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM
500 yen (Adults)
300 yen (Children)
Website: Ginkakuji Temple (Japanese)