Ginkaku-Ji Temple (The Silver Pavilion)
2 Ginkakujicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8402, JapanGetting there
Access: 30-minute walk from Demachiyanagi Station on the Keihan Railway
5-minute walk from City Bus Stop Ginkakuji-mae
Parking: 12 buses 2,500 yen, 40 cars 1000 yen for 2 hours
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes
+81-(0)75-771-5439More information Prices
Junior high and elementary school students: \300
Jisho-ji Temple is better known as Ginkaku-ji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion), a temple belonging to the Buddhist Shokoku School of the Rinzai Zen sect.
Ginkaku-ji Temple (The Silver Pavilion) is an elegant temple set in beautiful grounds at the foot of Kyoto's eastern mountains. Its grounds are an outstanding example of Japanese landscape architecture. Whether one is sitting on the landing beside the unique sand garden with its 2-metre silver cone, or walking the trail and catching glimpses of the Pavilion from different vantage points, one is constantly aware of the lovely details which move the heart. Originally designed as a retirement villa for the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1436-1490) in the Muromachi Period (1338 - 1573), Ginkaku-ji Temple was modeled on its sister temple Kinkaku-ji Temple (the Golden Pavilion). Yet Ginkaku-ji Temple was never plated with silver, and the main temple building remains an unpainted brown--and in its way, exemplifies the Japanese idea that something plain can be beautiful.
Yoshimasa spent much of his retirement here pursuing the arts, including the tea ceremony. The Togu-do building contains within it a tea ceremony room which is thought to have become the prototype for all future tea ceremony rooms. Behind the building is a fresh-water stream where Yoshimasa collected water for his tea. Looking back over the grounds from the Togu-do, one cannot help but admire the refined aesthetic which this retired shogun pursued in his final years.
A few times per year Ginkaku-ji Temple is illuminated in the evening, and all of its elements take on an added, surreal beauty. It must be seen to be believed.
As the retirement villa of an art obsessed shogun, Ginkakuji became a center of contemporary culture, known as the Higashiyama Culture in contrast to the Kitayama Culture of his grandfather's times. Unlike the Kitayama Culture, which remained limited to the aristocratic circles of Kyoto, the Higashiyama Culture had a broad impact on the entire country. The arts developed and refined during the time include the tea ceremony, flower arrangement, noh theater, poetry, garden design and architecture.
Today, Ginkakuji consists of the Silver Pavilion, half a dozen other temple buildings, a beautiful moss garden and a unique dry sand garden. It is enjoyed by walking along a circular route around its grounds, from which the gardens and buildings can be viewed.
A first sight of the Silver Pavilion can be enjoyed shorty after entering the grounds. Formally named Kannonden (Kannon Hall), the pavilion's two stories are constructed in two different architecture styles and contain a statue of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. However, the interior of the building is not open to the public.
Despite its name, the Silver Pavilion was never covered in silver. Instead, it is believed that the name arose as a nickname more than a century after the building's construction to contrast it with the Golden Pavilion. Alternatively, it is explained that moon light reflecting on the building's dark exterior (which used to be covered in black lacquer in the past) gave it a silvery appearance.
The pavilion is one of only two buildings on the grounds of Ginkakuji which have survived intact the many fires and earthquakes of the past centuries, although it has been undergoing periodical renovation works to keep it well preserved. Most recently the building's roof was redone and its earthquake resistance was improved. The works were completed in spring 2010.
Next along the route is an expansive, meticulously maintained dry sand garden, known as the "Sea of Silver Sand", with a massive sand cone named "Moon Viewing Platform". Besides the garden stands the Hondo (main hall), which displays paintings on its sliding doors (fusuma) but cannot be entered.
Right next to the Hondo stands the Togudo, Ginkakuji's only other temple building besides the Silver Pavilion which dates back to the temple's foundation. The Togudo is celebrated for containing a study room of 4.5 tatami mats, which is considered to be the oldest extant example of Shoin architecture, the architecture style in which most contemporary tatami rooms are still designed today. The building and its study room are not usually open to the public.
After passing by the Togudo, the walking path then takes visitors through Ginkakuji's moss garden, which features ponds with islands and bridges, little streams and various plants. The path climbs a hill behind the buildings from where there are nice views of the entire temple grounds and the city beyond. At last, visitors can enjoy once more some closer views of the Silver Pavilion before exiting the grounds.
History of Ginkakuji
The history of Ginkakuji begins with Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1435-90), who commissioned the building as a retirement villa. Construction began in the 1460s, and picked up speed in 1470s. This was one of the most destructive eras of Kyoto's history, with the Onin War (1467-77) leaving most of the city in ashes. Yoshimasa helped cause the war by first appointing his brother as shogun, then trying to install his young son instead.
A very poor administrator despite his intellectual gifts, Yoshimasa abandoned politics in 1474 and lavished his full attention on the building of his villa and the pursuit of the good life, which included romance, moon gazing, and the tea ceremony (which he helped develop into a high art).
The shogun was never able to coat the pavilion with silver - which he had intended to do in imitation of his grandfather's intentions at Kinkakuji - but he oversaw the construction of about a dozen buildings on the grounds. Yoshimasa counted many Zen monks among his teachers and friends and he designed his retirement villa around Zen sensibilities. He lived there from 1484 until his death in 1490.
Upon Yoshimasa's death in 1490, the villa was converted into a Buddhist temple in accordance with his will, a common practice of the time. But with the decline of the Ashikaga family in the following century, Ginkakuji was neglected and many buildings were destroyed.
Most of the buildings in the present temple complex date from the mid-17th century, but closely reflect the design and outlook of the builder. The Silver Pavilion is faithful to the original and the sand gardens, while a new creation of the 1600s, are consistent with the shogun's interests and inspirations (such as Kinkakuji).
What to See at Ginkakuji
Note: Ginkakuji is currently undergoing major renovations, with the entire structure covered in scaffolding. Works are scheduled to be completed in Spring 2010.
The front room of Togu-do ("East Seeking Hall," a National Treasure) is where Shogun Ashikaga is thought to have lived, and the statue of the priest is probably of Yoshimasa himself. The back room, called Dojin-sai ("Comradely Abstinence"), became the prototype for traditional tea-ceremony rooms.
Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) is a simple two-story building with a serene wooden exterior. Similar to its main inspiration, Kinkakuji, its design combines Chinese elements with the developing Japanese Muromachi (1338-1573) architecture.
The upper floor shelters a golden statue of Kannon said to have been carved by Unkei, a famous Kamakura-period sculptor. Unfortunately it's not normally open to public view. Also enshrined in the temple is Jizo, the guardian god of children.
Another notable building is Togudo (East Seeking Hall), where Yoshimasa is believed to have lived in the front room. A statue of a priest is probably a portrait of the shogun himself. The back room, Dojinsai (Comradely Abstinence) was used for tea ceremonies and became the prototype for traditional tea pavilions that emerged across Japan in the following century.
The temple complex includes lovely Japanese gardens. Attributed to the artist and architect Soami (1465-1523), they consist of two contrasting sections that combine harmoniously.
The first, a green pond garden overlooked by the pavilion, is a composition of rocks and plants designed to afford different perspectives from each viewpoint. The second garden features two sculpted mounds of sand, the higher one of which may symbolize the sacred Mt. Fuji. It sparkles in the moonlight, giving it the nickname Sea of Silver Sand.
Get There and Around
Ginkakuji can be accessed by direct bus number 5, 17 or 100 from Kyoto Station in about 35-40 minutes and for 230 yen one way. Alternatively, you can reach Ginkakuji by foot along the Philosopher's Path from Nanzenji in about 30-45 minutes.
10min walk from Ginkaku-ji-michi Bus Stop, Kyoto City Bus 5 or 17 from Kyoto Station
Reviews by visitors
The grounds are the best part of the Silver Pavilion. Each leaf, each stone seems to have been carefully placed and arranged. The sand arrangements is spectacular. Combine this with the Philosophers Walk at the entrance. ~Greg H
Lovely, peaceful, historical with tea ceremony room. Enjoyed it more than I expected. Saw so many temples, I get them a bit mixed up. This one is memorable. ~fitnesswla
While still an interesting visit, with the added value of being at the Northern end of the Philosopher's Walk - a Kyoto must-do - there are several other temples in Kyoto, some of them within short walking distance, that are much more interesting and cheaper to access.
This was a favorite of mine in Kyoto. The sand gardens are simply beautiful. The serenity and peacefulness of the grounds is not to be missed. It is a place of natural beauty. I loved every moment of this visit. ~Susan K
Gorgeous garden and pavillion. Surrounded by other interesting museums, including gardens and the famous philopsophers path. Great place to spend an afternoon as long as it isn't too hot. The pavillion itself is pretty enough but no competition for the Golden Pavillion, but the garden is lovely. ~Lorin S
Gorgeous temple full of history. Learning the life of shaogun of Japanese in 室町 era. Pond, garden, architecture, etc. highly recommended for anyone visit Kyoto. ~leems1104
The Silver Pavilion is a sight to behold. The grounds around it, with its beautiful Japanese themed garden..and water features present you with a zen atmosphere. Do the walkabout in the morning. Thereafter as you exit the grounds, on your left is the Philosopher's Walk, which is approx 30mins of your time. Its a great walk to the end. ~Dalip C
Approach is very interesting with a busy shopping street - many shops selling ice cream! Then a quiet entrance and a ban on selfie sticks -which must be good! Delightful garden surround picturesque Temple and the use of sand amazing. Mov
Ing outside the philosophers walk is good with some artisan shops alongside the canal and even a tea and homemade cake cafe.
This temple is absolutely wonderful. It has everything: a magical Japanese garden, a beautiful dry garden and it is a peaceful place in spite of the many tourists visiting it. The green mountais around make the experience almost surreal. The street leading to the temple from the bus stop is full with nice shops and also contribute to the atmosphere. Ginkakuji was the last temple I visited in Kyoto and it was a grand finale. ~SteveInGeneva
The Ginkaku-ji ('golden') temple in Kyoto is the perfect symbiosis of architecture and landscape - a true example of Japanese aesthetics and perfection. To view the golden temple (formerly a residence of a noble) across a small lake with skilfully inserted small islets against a background of a lush-green forest in May as we did was awesome, and it would be even more so in autumn with the trees coloured in true Indian summer style. There were crowds of course (no one can escape them in this time of mass tourism) , but well behaved mainly Japanese crowds. The temple alone is worth a visit to glorious Kyoto. ~Bignonno
Very nice site. Good gardens. Nice to view the temple from different angles. As with many sites, it gets incredibly busy around midday! ~TomWatkins77
It is another nice and must visit temple in Kyoto. Similar to many temple in Japan a road lead to the entrance selling many souvenirs etc we love the slow walk towards the temple. This place will even be more attractive when it is during cherry blossom time. ~ElbertPoh
The first thing to note is that Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavillion) isn't silver in color. Many people would expect it to be so, since the Golden Pavilion is colored gold. The pavilion itself is not particularly spectacular, but the grounds and gardens are nice.
This place is less crowded than the Golden Pavilion and you have a more peaceful experience visiting it.
On my last visit to Kyoto I visited the Golden Temple and was slightly disappointed. On this visit we came across Ginkakuji without having previously known about it. It was a delightful surprise. The garden is very beautiful and the visit was one of the highlights of this visit to Kyoto. I feel this captures the elegance, grace and charm of Kyoto. ~Annie J
The major attraction for me was the zen garden, not so much the building itself. Its sister Gingakuji definitely is the star in terms of pictures and viewing. Kinkakuji provides more "zen" because of the scenery and zen garden. A bit out of the way, but def worth a visit. ~rycsie
You can see more Kyoto travel guide at here.