It was getting late into the afternoon but I took a bus over to the eastern part of Kyoto and managed to squeeze in one more major sightseeing stop before the sun went down. A sheet of grey clouds now covered the sky as I walked up to the entrance of Ginkakuji, aka the Silver Pavillion.
Like Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion), Ginkakuji was the retirement villa of a shogun and after the shogun’s death it was converted into a Zen temple. Unlike the gold-covered Golden Pavilion, however, the Silver Pavilion is not covered in silver, though that may have been a part of the villa’s original design that was never realized. Construction of Ginkakuji began in 1482 and the temple’s main building, the two-storied pavilion pictured above, has managed to survive all the way to the current day. Inside the structure is a statue of Kanon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, but the building is not open to the public.
Next to the pavilion and the temple’s other halls is an impressive sand garden called the Sea of Silver Sand. Normally sand gardens are fairly flat but Ginkakuji’s garden features a large sand plateau that has been expertly smoothed and sculpted.
The most notable part of the Sea of Silver Sand is a big cone known as the Moon Viewing Platform. I’d be willing to bet that on clear nights with a full moon the Moon Viewing Platform and the rest of the sand garden would make for some really good photos with the moon in the background.
After passing by the Sea of Silver Sand, the Silver Pavilion, and the rest of the temple buildings, the tour route of Ginkakuji takes visitors into the temple’s garden. Ginkakuji’s garden is really nice and it’s one of my favorite temple gardens in all of Japan. The shogun that used to live at Ginkakuji was obsessed with art and aesthetics, and it shows in how visually appealing the garden space is.
Around the back of the garden area the trail leads up the slope of a hill to a spot with a view of the temple and the nearby area. The cloud cover that day meant that there wouldn’t be much of a sunset, but the red and orange leaves of some of the temple’s trees added splashes of color to the scenery. After coming down from the hill I looked around the garden a bit longer before exiting Ginkakuji and starting the trek back towards my hostel.