Ginkakuji (銀閣寺), also known as the Silver Pavilion, was established in 1482 by the grandson of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the builder of the infamous Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺). Ginkaku-ji has been identified as one of the key places where the Higashiyama culture started. At his death, founder Ashikaga Yoshimasa requested his domain to be converted in a temple, a common practice at the time.
Yoshimasa spent the major part of his life building his villa and the surrounding gardens. The silver pavilion itself is smaller than Kinkaku-ji's golden pavilion, and was never covered with silver due to a lack of funds. There has been recent discussions about doing this covering now, but given the state of the economy and the recent earthquake in Japan I doubt that this will be actually done. The ground level was designed with a typically Japanese style, while the first floor has a distinct Chinese influence. Like Kinkaku-ji, Byodo-in and other temples, a phoenix decorates the summit of the roof. Another important building is the Togudo hall (the one next to the pond), which apparently features the first 4.5 tatami room (integer multiples were and still are more common).
The garden of Ginkaku-ji is rich in features. The visitor is greeted by a large rock garden, or rather a perfectly sculpted plateau of sand, with stripes and different gravel textures to give a two-coloured impression. On the right is a large pile of sand called the kogatsudai (向月台). It represents Mount Fuji and the maple trees behind it represent the fire of the volcano. The path to the right leads to the main hall, but don't miss the small alcove and its nice window on the right of the path. After the main hall the path continues around the rock garden and passes near the Togudo hall and its pond. After a small bridge lies a... second bridge with a nice view on the Togudo. Next to this bridge is a spring that inevitably attracts small one yen coins (aluminium seems to have magnetic properties!) The path then climbs the hill behind the temple, and reaches another spring/waterfall, then a nice overlook with a view on the temple grounds. The visit ends by passing around the back of the silver pavilion.
Ginkaku-ji is located at the north end of the so called "path of philosophy" (哲学の道), along which several interesting temples are located: Honen-in (法然院), Anraku-ji (安楽寺), Reikan-ji (霊鑑寺) and finally Nanzen-ji (南禅寺) at the southern extremity of the path. Before going south, you might also want to check the Hakusa Sonso Villa (白沙村荘) which is close to the beginning of The Path.
Recommended for: Access:
Nearby: Hōnen-in 法然院 (350m), Hakusa Sonsō Villa 白沙村荘 (440m), Yōji-ya よーじや銀閣寺店 (620m), Stone carving shop (670m), Reikan-ji 霊鑑寺 (690m), Anraku-ji 安楽寺 (710m), Wachu-an 和中庵 (730m), Sakuradanicho 47 桜谷町47 (860m), Ōtoyo-jinja 大豊神社 (960m), Shinyo-dō 真如堂 (1km),...
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Keywords: Japan, 日本, Japon, Kyoto, 京都, 左京区, Sakyo-ku, 銀閣寺, UNESCO world heritage, Ginkaku-ji, 慈照寺, Jisho-ji, silver pavilion, temple, 寺院, 仏閣