Ginkaku-Ji: The “Silver” Pavilion

Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavillion) is often associated with the similarly named Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion). Kin means gold, and gin means silver. Like Kinkaku-ji, Ginkaku-ji was first the retirement villa of a shogun, later converted into a Buddhist temple.

Both have the focus of a beautiful pavilion beside a pond. The similarities stop there.

Ginkaku-Ji:  Silver Doesn’t Mean Second Best

The so-called silver pavilion is not covered in silver. Perhaps as a result, Ginkaku-ji’s gold colored buildings and garden have a greater sense of cohesion.

Ginkaku-ji The Silver Pavilion - Up Close

Is It Worth Visiting?

Ginkaku-ji The Silver Pavilion - Walking Path

Ginkaku-ji is in a traditional neighborhood with many beautiful wooden houses and old shops. There are plenty of tourist traps, but enough patches of beauty between them that it is possible to overlook them.

What You Can See There

Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa intended Ginkaku-ji to be covered with silver after his death. Although this ambition never came to fruition, Yoshimasa’s wish to convert it into a temple was realized after this death. This is where the temple’s official name comes from. The official name is actually, Jisho-ji, which comes from after Ashikaga’s Buddhist name.

Retreating from the political disturbances (Kyoto was under attack during Ashikaga’s retirement), Ashikaga immersed himself in the arts. His influence can be seen in the tea ceremony room within the Togu-do, considered to be the prototype of future tea ceremony rooms.

Ginkaku-ji The Silver Pavilion - Panorama

The grounds also reflect Ashikaga’s artistic leanings.

The gardens are a masterpiece of design centered on the pavilion, with walkways that play hide-and-seek with the pavilion, and displaying it from many different angles. Do not forget your camera! Without Kinkaku-ji’s crowds to get in your way there is nothing to prevent you getting an incredible photo of Ginkaku-ji from any angle.

The playful moss-garden features bridges and islands. The gardens extend up the hill, giving a fantastic perspective of the pavilion, temple complex, and beyond.

Ginkaku-ji also features a unique sand-garden, raked every morning to maintain a fastidiously neat appearance. The focal point is a two-meter high cone said to represent a mountain and lake.

Ginkaku-ji The Silver Pavilion - Sand Garden

Unlike other Kyoto sites that are less appealing in winter, Ginkaku-ji is beautiful all year round. In winter, the carefully groomed pine trees add color, while a light dusting of snow contrasts pleasingly against the dark wood of the unfinished pavilion.

Check out this video tour for first-hand look at the Silver Pavilion:

Opening Hours

  • March to November:  8:30-17:00 (8:30am – 5:00pm)
  • December to February:  9:00-16:30 (9:00 am – 4:30pm)

Admission Fees

  • Adults: 500 yen
  • Junior high and elementary school students:  300 yen

How to Get There

To get to Ginkaku-ji from Kyoto-Station, take City bus 5, 17 or 100, a thirty-five to forty minute ride, getting off at Ginkakuji-mae (230 yen each way). The temple is a 5-minute walk away.

Insider’s Tip

Ginkaku-ji is the ending point of another famous Kyoto attraction, the Philosopher’s Walk (Path), named for a professor at Kyoto University who used it for daily meditation.

The 30-minute walk (longer if you explore the temples along the way) meanders along the banks of a canal lined with cherry trees and mossy temples and is especially popular during cherry blossom season.

There are some charming cafes and stores along this route. It is worthwhile combining a visit to Ginkaku-ji with the Philsopher’s Walk, especially in spring or summer.

To approach Ginkakuji via the Philosopher’s Walk, head to Nanzen-ji temple (also worth a visit), a 10-15 minute walk from City Bus-stop Nanzenji-Eikando-michi, served by bus number 5.

Philosopher's Path, Kyoto [哲学の道/京都]

Top Attractions in Kyoto

Top Attractions in Arashiyama

Places to Stay in Kyoto

Photo of author


Louise first arrived in Japan in 2003 as a JET Programme participant, intending to stay for just one year. She had no idea she would end up spending eleven years exploring the country that has become her second home. Although able to navigate the big metropolises of Tokyo and Osaka with ease, Louise's real love is rural life, spending six years in beautiful Shimane prefecture. Now back in her native New Zealand, Louise is exploring her passion for writing.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Send this to a friend