Ginkaku-ji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion) is an elegant two-story building with a serene wooden exterior at the foot of Kyoto‘s eastern mountains. The fifteenth century temple was originally a retirement villa for the artistic Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1436-1490) who turned his back on politics in order to devote himself to the quest for beauty.
The military commander intended to cover the pavilion with silver leaf in imitation of the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) built by his grandfather. Unlike the gilded Kinkakuji, the Silver Pavilion was never plated with silver.
The Pavilion remains an unpainted brown with its eclectic Wabi- Sabi style (the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection). With its simple wooden design, subtle elegance and subdued refinement, the Zen temple perfectly exemplifies this philosophy.
The first floor of the pavilion, built in the shoin-zukuri style, is called Shinbu-Den while the second floor, built in a more austere Zen Buddhist style is called Choonkaku. Notable are Ginkaku-ji‘s moss garden and the dry sand garden known as the “Sea of Silver Sand.” Adjacent to the sea of sand, there is a cone shaped structure rising 2 meters into the air called the Kogetsudai (Moon-viewing Platform), intended to accentuate the beauty of the moon.
After Ashikaga’s death, the villa was converted into a Zen Temple in accordance with his wishes. The temple took the name Jisho-ji (Temple of the Shining Mercy) but popularly became known as Ginkaku-ji.
The Silver Pavilion
2 Ginkakuji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto City
Hours: 8:30 – 17:00 (Mar. to Nov. Dec. through Feb. 9:00 – 16:30)
Entrance fees: Adults: 500 yen