Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion, was constructed as a retreat by shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa in 1489 after the destruction of ... More
Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion, was constructed as a retreat by shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa in 1489 after the destruction of much of Kyoto in the Onin Civil War of 1467. Its rather somber feel contrasts with the dazzling Kinkakuji , the Golden Pavilion, on which it was modeled. The story goes that Yoshimasa ran short of funds to coat the building with silver so that it could reflect the moonlight. Now a Zen temple, the elegant grounds contain a tranquil pond, a stone garden with raised cones, again to reflect moonlight, and a moss garden all designed by master gardener, Soami.
As written by flying s, I visited Yotsugi Chaya and it was wonderful! During the Summer, an American girl works there as a waitress and is fluent in both Japanese and pretty good at French; we spoke while she served me. The noodles were surprisingly good and the shaved ice is so good. Ginkaku-ji was nice, but smaller than I thought. The road was really nice and a good exercise too!
The Silver Temple is surrounded by dozens of scenic points and interests. The view from the temple looking down the entire city is spectacular. The fun part is walking up to the Temple. The road is filled with small souvenir shops. At the end of the road, right before entering the temple, there is a great place to take a rest. It is called Yotsugi Chaya (a traditional noodle shop) which is very friendly to foreigners. They are best known for their Soba noodles. The Kirin beer specially brewed for Kyoto also tastes great in hot weather.
Before I went to Ginkaku-ji, I though it was silver and shinning like Kinkaku-ji. I was supplised to see how differnces between them. You can enjoy Ginkakuji itself and other nature such as walking pass on the hill in the same area of Ginkaku-ji. Now it is the best season to visit this temple and Kyoto.
There are four things about Ginkakuji that make it one of my favorite desintations in Kyoto. First is the wall of camelias that frame the entrance. Note how the sense of length and space is increased by the long horizontal path. Next, the magnificent 5 needle Pine Tree just inside the entrance. The delicate blue hue of this pine and the intricate shape always delight me. Then the raked sand, symbolizing waves genlty rolling up a beach in the moonlight. Squint your eyes and imagine a full moon shining on this vista. The moss covered hillside is lovely, especially after a rain and the maples are magnificent in autumn. Walk slowly, there is a different view from every vantage.
A lot is made of the "golden pavillion" Kinkakuji, leaving Ginkakuji a footnote in the travel guide. It is a more subdued spot, but therefore, also a very peaceful and beautiful place. Generally, it's free of the hoardes of tourists and school daytrippers that crowd Kinkakuji, leaving you free to revel in the beautiful moss gardens. We went in midsummer--I'd recommend going a bit earlier than that if possible.
Ah, the Silver Pavillion. People go there for it alone, and then take the bus back. DON'T! Instead, follow the Road of Philosophy south, have a coffee, eat some cinnamon crackers (yatsu-hashi), enjoy the area around. The Silver Pavillion itself is worth it, ESPECIALLY in winter, during snow. The etherial view of artifical, symetric sand mixing with the bionic, moving background of trees and water is sure to whet your appetite for reflection.
Don't forget, you can climb Daimonji Mt. from there and all the eccentric shops surrounding Kyoto University are not far away.
This temple is a little more subdued than the highly touted Kinkakuji, but Ginkakuji is much better. The grounds of Ginkakuji include a very nice moss garden, and you can climb up the side of a hill and enjoy a nice view of Kyoto. The more subdued design of Ginkakuji reflects the true Japanese character in my opinion.
This temple, known as the Silver Temple, is sometimes underrated by visitors, but is vital to the development of Japanese culture and aesthetics. For reasons why, read Donald Keene's book, *Yoshimasa and the Silver Pavilion: The Creation of the Soul of Japan* (Columbia University Press, 2003).
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