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

Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion)

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 Temple Kyoto

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

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.

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

See the Sea of Silver Sand.

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.

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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

Kyoto, Japan at Philosopher's Walk in the Springtime.

Don’t miss the Philosopher’s Path while you’re at Ginkakuji.

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.

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Things To Know

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

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) 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).

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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