Ginkakuji was inspired by Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) and built by Ashikaga Yoshimasa, the grandson of the shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, who had the Golden Pavilion as his home before leaving it in his will to the people of Kyoto as a Zen Temple.
Visiting Ginkakuji you will find the main Silver Pavilion, a number of other temple buildings, an immaculately kept moss garden and a uniquely engaging dry sand garden. Like many of the temple sites around Kyoto, visitors follow a circular route around the main temple’s grounds.
Unlike the Golden Pavilion the Silver Pavilion was never covered in silver. It is thought that the name arose as a nickname more than a century after the building’s construction to contrast it with Kinkakuji. Another theory is that the moon light reflecting on the building’s dark exterior (which used to be covered in black lacquer) gave it a silvery appearance.
Wandering around the grounds be sure to look at the meticulously maintained dry sand garden, known as the Sea of Silver Sand, with a massive sand cone which is thought to symbolize Mt Fuji. Beside the garden stands the Hondo (main hall), which displays paintings on its sliding doors (fusuma) but cannot be entered. Next to the Hondo you will find the Togudo, Ginkakuji’s other temple building. Togudo is considered to be the oldest example of Shoin architecture, a style in which most contemporary tatami rooms are still designed today.
Don’t forget to take a look at Ginkakuji’s moss garden, which features a selection of ponds, islands, bridges, little streams and various plants. The path ascends behind the buildings where you can take in nice vistas of the entire temple grounds and the city beyond.