Ginkakuji, Silver Pavilion, is a Zen temple along the eastern mountains of Kyoto. In 1482, Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa established his retirement home on the site of the present temple and modeled it after Kinkaku-Ji, the gold pavilion, his grandfather’s villa at the foot of Kyoto’s northern mountains. The villa was converted into a Zen temple in 1490 after Yoshimasa’s death.
Today Ginkaku-Ji consists of the Silver Pavilion, a beautiful moss garden and a unique dry sand garden. There is a circular path around the area, from which the gardens and buildings can be seen. A first look at the Silver Pavilion can be enjoyed shortly after entering the grounds. The two floors of the pavilion, called Kannonden, are built in two different architectural styles and contain a statue of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. The interior of the building is not accessible to the public.
Despite its name, the silver pavilion was never covered with silver. The name is thought to have been nicknamed more than a century after the building was built to compare it to the Golden Pavilion. Alternatively, it is explained that the moonlight reflected on the dark exterior of the building gave it a silvery appearance.
Along the route is a sprawling, carefully maintained, dry sand garden known as the “Sea of Silver Sand”, with a massive sand cone called “Moon Viewing Platform”. Next to the garden is the Hondo. Next to it stands the Togudo, Ginkakuji’s only other temple building next to the Silver Pavilion. Then the trail leads through the Ginkakuji-Moosgarten, where are ponds with islands and bridges, small streams and various plants. The path leads to a hill behind the buildings, from where you have a beautiful view of the entire temple grounds and the city beyond.