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Ginkakuji (t, 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, modeled 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.

A first sight of the Silver Pavilion can be enjoyed shorty after entering the grounds. Formally named Kannonden (Kannon Hall), the pavilion's two stories are constructed in two different architecture styles and contain a statue of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. However, the interior of the building is not open to the public.

Despite its name, the Silver Pavilion was never covered in silver. Instead, it is believed that the name arose as a nickname more than a century after the building's construction to contrast it with the Golden Pavilion. Alternatively, it is explained that moon light reflecting on the building's dark exterior (which used to be covered in black lacquer) gave it a silvery appearance.

The pavilion is one of only two buildings on the grounds of Ginkakuji which have survived intact the many fires and earthquakes of the past centuries, although it has been undergoing periodical renovation works to keep it well preserved.

Next along the route is an expansive, meticulously maintained dry sand garden, known as the "Sea of Silver Sand", with a massive sand cone named "Moon Viewing Platform". Besides the garden stands the Hondo (main hall), which displays paintings on its sliding doors (fusuma) but cannot be entered.

Right next to the Hondo stands the Togudo, Ginkakuji's only other temple building besides the Silver Pavilion which dates back to the temple's foundation. The Togudo is celebrated for containing a study room of 4.5 tatami mats, which is considered to be the oldest extant example of Shoin architecture, the architecture style in which most contemporary tatami rooms are still designed today. The building is not usually open to the public.

After passing by the Togudo, the walking path then takes visitors through Ginkakuji's moss garden, which features ponds with islands and bridges, little streams and various plants. The path climbs a hill behind the buildings from where there are nice views of the entire temple grounds and the city beyond. At last, visitors can enjoy once more some closer views of the Silver Pavilion before exiting the grounds.

Getting there and around

Ginkakuji can be accessed by direct bus number 5, 17 or 100 from Kyoto Station in about 35-40 minutes and for 230 yen one way. Alternatively, you can reach Ginkakuji by foot along the Philosopher's Path from Nanzenji in about 30-45 minutes.

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Hotels around Kyoto

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    • Guesthouse KYOTO COMPASS
      Budget-friendly
      Located in Kyoto, this traditional Japanese guest house features free Wi-Fi and a free public computer. Shichijo Onmae bus stop is 3 minutesf walk away. A seating area and shared bathroom are provided with each room at Guesthouse KYOTO COMPASS. Free toiletries are provided and blankets are available upon request. Select rooms have a garden view. A shared living area and bicycles are available for guestsf use during their stay at this Kyoto Guesthouse Compass. Access to the shared kitchen is available upon request. The guest house is 4.5 km from Imperial Palace and 2.2 km from Kyoto Station. Nijo Castle and Toji Castle are within a 30 minutesf bus ride away.
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    • Guest House Oumi
      Budget-friendly
      Well set in the centre of Kyoto, Guest House Oumi provides air-conditioned rooms, a shared lounge, free WiFi and a garden. Featuring family rooms, this property also provides guests with a terrace. The accommodation offers a shared kitchen and room service for guests. All units include a shared bathroom, slippers and bed linen. A continental breakfast is available daily at the guest house. Nijo Castle is less than 1 km from Guest House Oumi, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.2 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 48 km from the accommodation.
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    • Ryokan Mugen (Adult Only)
      Luxury
      Mugen is a property that was built 160 years ago, situated in Kyoto, 1 km from Nijo Castle. Every room at Mugen features an en suite shower room, toilet, free toiletries and a hairdryer. Free WiFi is available throughout the entire property. You will find a shared lounge on site and a bar at the annex building. The ryokan also offers bike hire. Imperial Palace is 1.1 km from Mugen, while Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is 1.6 km from the property. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 39 km from the property.
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    • GLANZ KEI Kyoto Station
      Luxury
      Situated in Kyoto, 1.5 km from TKP Garden City Kyoto and 2.7 km from the centre, GLANZ KEI Kyoto Station features air-conditioned accommodation with free WiFi, and a shared lounge. Each unit has a fully equipped kitchen with a microwave, a seating area, a flat-screen TV, a washing machine, and a private bathroom with bidet and slippers. A fridge and stovetop are also available, as well as a kettle. The aparthotel provides a laundry service, as well as business facilities like fax and photocopying. Sanjusangen-do Temple is 2.1 km from GLANZ KEI Kyoto Station, while Tofuku-ji Temple is 2.3 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 45 km from the accommodation.
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    • Hotel Muso
      Mid-range
      Well located in the Shimogyo Ward district of Kyoto, Hotel Muso is located 1.8 km from Sanjusangen-do Temple, 1.9 km from Samurai Kembu Kyoto and 2 km from TKP Garden City Kyoto. This 3-star hotel offers a concierge service and luggage storage space. The accommodation provides a hot tub, free WiFi throughout the property and family rooms. The rooms in the hotel are fitted with a coffee machine. Each room has a kettle and a private bathroom with a bidet and slippers, while selected rooms come with a kitchen equipped with a stovetop. Guest rooms will provide guests with air conditioning, a safety deposit box and a flat-screen TV. Kiyomizu-dera Temple is 2 km from Hotel Muso, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.2 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 48 km from the accommodation.
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    • Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie
      Luxury
      Ideally situated in the Shimogyo Ward district of Kyoto, Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie is situated 1.3 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum, 1.9 km from Samurai Kembu Kyoto and 2.3 km from TKP Garden City Kyoto. Among the facilities at this property are a 24-hour front desk and a concierge service, along with free WiFi throughout the property. The hotel has family rooms. The hotel will provide guests with air-conditioned rooms with a wardrobe, a kettle, a fridge, a safety deposit box, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with a bidet. At Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie the rooms have bed linen and towels. An American breakfast is available each morning at the accommodation. Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie offers a terrace. Shoren-in Temple is 2.7 km from the hotel, while Nijo Castle is 2.8 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 48 km from Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie.
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    • Kyono Mori Yurinsha
      Mid-range
      Set in Kyoto, 1.5 km from Sanjusangen-do Temple, Kyono Mori Yurinsha features a bar and views of the city. Among the facilities of this property are a restaurant, room service and luggage storage space, along with free WiFi. Local points of interest like Kyoto International Manga Museum and Shoren-in Temple are reachable within 2.6 km and 2.8 km, respectively. All guest rooms come with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with cable channels, a microwave, a kettle, a shower, slippers and a desk. The rooms feature a private bathroom, a hairdryer and bed linen. Guests at the inn can enjoy a ? la carte or a vegetarian breakfast. Kyono Mori Yurinsha provides an ironing service, as well as business facilities like fax and photocopying. Popular points of interest near the accommodation include Kiyomizu-dera Temple, TKP Garden City Kyoto and Samurai Kembu Kyoto. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 47 km from Kyono Mori Yurinsha.
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    • Miru Kyoto Nishiki
      Mid-range
      Conveniently situated in the Nakagyo Ward district of Kyoto, Miru Kyoto Nishiki is located 1 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum, 1.8 km from Samurai Kembu Kyoto and 2.5 km from Nijo Castle. Among the facilities at this property are a 24-hour front desk and luggage storage space, along with free WiFi throughout the property. The property is 3 km from TKP Garden City Kyoto and 3.3 km from Sanjusangen-do Temple. The hotel will provide guests with air-conditioned rooms offering a desk, a kettle, a microwave, a fridge, a safety deposit box, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with a bidet. At Miru Kyoto Nishiki each room is equipped with bed linen and towels. Shoren-in Temple is 2.6 km from the accommodation, while Heian Shrine is 2.7 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 49 km from Miru Kyoto Nishiki.
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    • Nagi Kyoto Shijo
      Luxury
      Offering air-conditioned rooms in the Nakagyo Ward district of Kyoto, Nagi Kyoto Shijo is 1.4 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum. Among the facilities at this property are a 24-hour front desk and room service, along with free WiFi throughout the property. The rooms include a balcony. At the hotel, the rooms have a wardrobe. At Nagi Kyoto Shijo all rooms have a desk, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. Nijo Castle is 1.8 km from Nagi Kyoto Shijo, while TKP Garden City Kyoto is 2.6 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 47 km from the hotel.
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    • Ryokan Shimizu
      Budget-friendly
      About a 7-minute walk from JR Kyoto Train Station and a 3-minute walk to Nishi-Hongan-ji Temple, Ryokan Shimizu is a non-smoking property that provides air-conditioned Japanese rooms with free Wi-Fi and a private bathroom. Rental bicycles are available at an additional charge. Guests at Shimizu Ryokan can experience traditional Japanese-style sleeping arrangements, with futon bedding on a tatami (woven-straw) floor. Rooms include a TV, a fridge and a tea maker. The en suite bath has toiletries. Higashi-Hongan-ji Temple is a 5-minute walk away, while Gojo Subway Station is a 10-minute walk. Sanjusangen-do Temple is 2 km away. On-site parking is possible, for a fee. Housed in a traditional gmachiya-zukurih building, the hotel includes a small garden and a hot bath that can be reserved for private use.
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