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Shining Bright Exploring the Silver Pavilion, aKyoto icon


Have you been to the Ginkakuji or Silver Pavilion?

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In Kyoto, you can find a myriad of historical temples and shrines. Every time, I travel to Kyoto, I admire the Kiyomizu-dera temple and the Kinkakuji (golden temple). One of the landmarks I had not yet visited in Kyoto until recently is the “Temple of the Silver Pavilion”or Japanese Ginkaku-ji.


Others may have heard the temple being called Jishō, which means “Radiant Mercy.”Interestingly, this name was derived from the founder’s Buddhist name.

As an author of 3 travel books, I am constantly being asked if there is one city that they must visit, I tell them Kyoto and, of course, Tokyo.


If you have never been to Kyoto, I highly recommend it. When you visit this breathtaking city area, you will be able comprehend why Kyoto is a popular city to visit.

Nevertheless, the Ginkaku-ji Buddhist temple is situated in the northern area of Kyoto. Historically, the pavilion temple was initially erected as a mountain villa for the shoguns. If you look at the location of the Ginkaku-ji, it is not in close vicinity of the Kyoto station, which is constantly hectic and busy. It is a 32 minute bus ride and by car the approximate duration is 20 minutes.


The founder of the temple is Ashikaga Yoshimasa, who was a Shogun. The temple was erected in 1482 showing a long train of history throughout the ages. Yoshimasa and his grandfather had a creative mind. Today, if you visit both the Kinkakuji (golden temple) and the Ginkaku-ji, there are similarities.


It is believed that Ashikaga was inspired by his grandfather, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, who was the owner of the golden temple before he passed. Yoshimasa had a desire to emulate the Kinkakuji temple.


The point of building the temple pavilion from the busy hectic center was to perhaps two fold. First, the purpose of the villa was to provide a place of solitude and tranquility for the shoguns. Second, the purpose of the villa was for Yoshimasa to make it a retirement home.

The silver pavilion is the first landmark to see in the area.


As I scanned this entire temple, one thing that caught me off guard was the color. The color of the temple is dark brown not silver. I was dumbfounded. I was looking forward to seeing a shiny silver pavilion sparkling like diamonds from the sun. The fact that the color of the temple is not silver begs the question? Why?


According to legend, it was Ashikaga Yoshimasa’s intention to create a silver temple. Initially, he planned to have silver foil laid on the rooftops, but that planned was never executed due to the founder’s death. Notably, whenever the sun shines down upon the exterior dark brown temple, a silvery reflection is created.


After Yoshimasa became a Buddhist monk in 1485, he had the mountain villa converted into a Buddhist temple following his demise. Shortly after the death of Yoshimasa, the villa was transformed into a zen temple.


I paid 500 yen to enter the silver temple grounds. As I caught myself staring at the silver pavilion, I was mesmerized by its beauty and its surroundings. I could picture myself as a Shogun in the Edo period and experience the serenity that filled the air. To the right of be pavilion was a tori gate and a shrine in front of it.


Anytime you are traveling in Japan and you observe a Tori gate, that is an entrance to a shrine. Typically, you will guard dog statues there as a sign of protection.


Furthermore, to the left of be pavilion were beautiful stones and to the left of that a well maintained sand garden referred to as the “Sea of silver sand.”The sand had been raked in a meticulous manner forming unique swirl patterns. They were stunning to observe and they quickly caught my attention.


What was even more impressive was the towering perfect 2 meter cone shape structure created by sand. It is said the cone was designed for the spot of moon gazing. It is said that the cone is symbolic of Mount Fuji.


Furthermore, in the vicinity of the green was the Hondo (main hall). Though we were told we could not enter the Honda, we were able to observe creative paintings on the sliding doors of the hall.

In proximity of the Honda stood three Togudo, a temple building which comprises tatami mats and beautiful architecture. Not far from the Togudo was a waking path that led me to the moss garden. In the surrounding area, I noticed small streams, wooden bridges with bamboo stalk rails, a forest area, plants, trees, and ponds.


After passing by the Togudo, the walking path then takes visitors through Ginkakuji’s moss garden, which features ponds with islands and bridges, little streams and various plants.

I found the Sengetsu-sen Falls, which was situated on the southeastern end of the Nishiki Kagami Ike Pond. The water flows to the lower gardens of the Ginkaku and Togudo hall.

The path climbs a hill behind the buildings from where there are nice views of the entire temple grounds and the city beyond. At last, visitors can enjoy once more some closer views of the Silver Pavilion before exiting the grounds.


As I continued my tour around the area, I noticed there was a set of stone stairs that takes you to a higher ascent. When I reached the top of a hill, I was able to espy the silver pavilion and sand garden from a distance as well as catch breathtaking views of the city.

At the end of the walking trail, i caught sight of the beautiful and stunning Silver pavilion before departing the area. This is probably one of the best areas to photo shoot the silver temple.


The Silver Pavilion can be accessed from the Philosopher’s Path, which is breathtakingly beautiful during the Sakura season.





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