Ginkakuji Temple, also known as the Silver Pavilion, is a Zen temple at the foot of Higashiyama mountains located in Eastern Kyoto. In 1482, shogun Yoshimasa built his retirement villa on the grounds of today’s temple, modeling it after Kinkakuji or Golden Pavilion which was his grandfather’s retirement villa at the base of Kitayama mountains in Northern Kyoto. The villa was converted into a Zen temple after Yoshimasa’s death in 1490.
Today, Ginkakuji consists of the Silver Pavilion, half a dozen other temple buildings, a beautiful moss garden and a unique dry sand garden. It is enjoyed by walking along a circular route around its grounds, from which the gardens and buildings can be viewed.
Despite its name, the Silver Pavilion was never covered in silver. Instead, it is believed that the name arose as a nickname more than a century after the building’s construction to contrast it with the Golden Pavilion. It may also be explained by the moon light reflecting on the building’s dark exterior (which used to be covered in black lacquer in the past) giving it a silvery appearance.
There is a tree-lined uphill pathway at the back of the Silver Pavilion – offering respite from the 38*C temperature that day in Kyoto. It also has a commanding view of the city of Kyoto from one of the top of the hills.
We were fortunate to have visited this temple first before seeing the much bigger and more majestic Golden Pavilion. Otherwise, we would have been underwhelmed by the size and simplicity of the Silver Pavilion – very Zen, actually.
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