Lots to see and do in Kyoto, and by the end of the first day you’ll probably already feel a bit over-templed. Some temples are very impressive, and some more humble, some are Zen, some Buddhist, and if you’re a person of details by day 2 you might already start noticing the little details that make those different. The Silver Pavilion, or Ginkaku-ji, is considered by many as a tourist highlight, but probably not so much for its grandeur as there are far more impressive temples and gardens in Kyoto but more for its odd story. Though after three days of endless temples, it didn’t do much for me, but I admit that the surrounding area and the path I walked that morning with a Shenzhen student learning arts in Kyoto University made the visit very special.
We’ll start from the temple, ofcourse…
Here’s a bit about the Silver Pavilion from the Japan Guide:
Ginkakuji (銀閣寺, Silver Pavilion) is a Zen temple along Kyoto’s eastern mountains (Higashiyama). In 1482, shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa built his retirement villa on the grounds of today’s temple, modeling it after Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion), his grandfather’s retirement villa at the base of Kyoto’s northern mountains (Kitayama). The villa was converted into a Zen temple after Yoshimasa’s death in 1490.
As the retirement villa of an art obsessed shogun, Ginkakuji became a center of contemporary culture, known as the Higashiyama Culture in contrast to the Kitayama Culture of his grandfather’s times. Unlike the Kitayama Culture, which remained limited to the aristocratic circles of Kyoto, the Higashiyama Culture had a broad impact on the entire country. The arts developed and refined during the time include the tea ceremony, flower arrangement, noh theater, poetry, garden design and architecture.
Today, Ginkakuji consists of the Silver Pavilion, half a dozen other temple buildings, a beautiful moss garden and a unique dry sand garden. It is enjoyed by walking along a circular route around its grounds, from which the gardens and buildings can be viewed.
But the area has more than the temple to offer. Every 2 minutes walk you’re bound to see something interesting and/or beautiful. Don’t be shy, just walk in and have a look…
A stroll through the eastern paths of Kyoto is bound to lift your spirits and feed your tourist soul. This is what the Kyoto charm is all about.