Region
Kansai
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Kyoto
Population
2,644,331

Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion)

All that glitters isn't gold.

The brother temple to the famous Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji), the Silver Pavilion (Ginkaku-ji) doesn’t actually have any silver applied to its exterior. But 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 Temple Kyoto

Wabi-sabi is an aesthetic based on accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay and death.

Buried in the shadows of Higashiyama’s mountain range, Ginkaku-ji Temple was originally constructed as a mountain villa for shoguns (military commanders), 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. Yoshimasa’s taste, though, was by no means conventional.

Zen garden with sand tower at Ginkaku-ji Temple, Kyoto.

See the Sea of Silver Sand.

Based upon an aesthetic rooted in Zen philosophy, Ginkaku-ji Temple oozes wabi-sabi everywhere from its faded, wooden panels (once varnished in black lacquer) to the stone garden that invokes a feeling of cleansing and renewal. Another example of wabi-sabi on the temple grounds is a sea of raked white sand leading to a towering cone – a landscape created for moon gazing.

Apparently 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. Following in the footsteps of wabi-sabi, Gingaku-ji’s moss garden reflects beauty in the inevitable aging process: otherwise known in Zen as impermanence.

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How To Get There

Address

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 and a 6 minute walk to Ginkaku-ji Temple.) Alternatively, take the Kyoto City Bus 5, 17, and 100 to Ginkakuji-michi bus stop (approximately 50 minutes en route and a 10 minute walk).

By foot

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

 

Where To Stay

Kyoto - house / Vacation STAY 1099
  • Sakyo-ku Ginkakuji Mae-cho 17 Kyoto-Shi, Kyoto 606-8407
  • 0.1 km
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Hostel Ginkakuji
  • Sakyo-ku Jyoudoji Nishidacho 58-2 Kyoto-Shi, Kyoto 606-8417
  • 8.6/10
  • 0.5 km
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Matahari Annex Stay
  • Sakyo-ku Kitashirakawa Kubotacho 16-2 Kyoto-Shi, Kyoto 606-8266
  • 8.3/10
  • 0.5 km
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Kyoto Guest House Kyo no En Nishiya
  • Sakyo-ku Kitashirakawashimobetto-cho 20-1 Kyoto-Shi, Kyoto 606-8286
  • 8.6/10
  • 0.5 km
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