Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion)

  • Category:Tourism

Walk The Philosopher's Path At This Kyoto Temple That Proves All That Glitters Truly Isn't Gold
The brother temple to Kyoto’s famous Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji), the Silver Pavilion (Ginkaku-ji) doesn’t actually have any silver applied to its exterior.

It’s precisely this lack of adornment that makes it special. In its understated elegance, Ginkaku-ji embodies the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi—the art of finding beauty in imperfection.

Ginkaku-ji’s gardens

Buried in the shadows of Higashiyama’s mountain range, Ginkaku-ji oozes wabi-sabi everywhere from its faded, wooden panels once varnished in black lacquer to its stone garden that invokes a feeling of cleansing and renewal.

The dry garden known as the “Sea of Silver Sand,” is one of the temple’s most interesting features. Raked white sand leads to a towering cone that was landscaped to be a perfect spot for moon gazing.

The dry garden is modeled after a celebrated lake near Hangzhou, China while the sand pyramid is the mirror-image of Mount Fuji. Both sand shapes are religious metaphors for enlightenment, with the moon and its reflection symbolizing an illumination of consciousness. Ginkaku-ji’s moss garden reflects beauty in the inevitable aging process, otherwise known in Zen as impermanence.

Ginkaku-ji was originally constructed as a mountain villa for shoguns away from Kyoto’s bustling city center. The mastermind behind the Silver Pavilion, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, was a shogun himself who turned his back on politics to pursue a quest for beauty. As you can see, Yoshimasa’s taste was by no means conventional.

The Philosopher’s Path

Embodying that feeling of zen even further is the attached Philosopher’s Path, a two-kilometer long stone walkway leading to the Nanzen-ji neighborhood. During spring, cherry blossoms bloom along the path covering it in soft pink and white petals.

Ironically, this brings hoards of people clamoring for a glimpse of the fleeting flowers—the complete opposite of zen. However, it’s still worth visiting as a serene stroll here removes you from the chaos of big city life, just for a moment.
Hours and fees
The temple is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. March to November;  9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. December to February.
Admission is ¥500

Ginkakujicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8402, Japan

By bus
From Kyoto Station’s bus terminal, take the Raku Bus 100 to Ginkakuji-mae bus stop (approximately 45 minutes) from there it’s a six-minute walk to Ginkaku-ji.

Alternatively, take the Kyoto City Bus 5, 17, or 100 to Ginkakuji-michi bus stop (approximately 50 minutes) and walk to minutes to the temple.

By foot
If you prefer to travel on foot, take the scenic Philosopher’s Path from Nanzen-ji Temple (approximately a 30-minute walk).

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