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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, 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.

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 in the past) 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. Most recently the building's roof was redone and its earthquake resistance was improved. The works were completed in spring 2010.

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 and its study room are 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.

How to get to and around Kyoto

Hours and Fees

Hours

8:30 to 17:00 (9:00 to 16:30 from December to February)

Closed

No closing days

Admission

500 yen

Hotels around Kyoto

Top rated in Kyoto
Budget:
    • Guesthouse Engawa
      Budget-friendly
      Guesthouse Engawa offers accommodation in Kyoto. Guests can relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of Kyoto in their rooms. Each comes with a flat-screen TV, and an electric kettle will be provided upon request. Bathroom facilities are shared with other guests. Free toiletries and hairdryers are also available. There is luggage storage space at the property. Kiyomizu-dera Temple is 600 metres from Guesthouse Engawa, while Heian Shrine is 2.4 km from the property. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 39 km from the property.
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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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    • Ryokan Mugen (Adult Only)
      Mid-range
      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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    • Gallery Nozawa Inn
      Budget-friendly
      Gallery Nozawa Inn offers accommodation in Kyoto, 25 minutes on foot from JR Kyoto Station. Free WiFi is available throughout the property. Every room includes a flat-screen TV and air conditioning. Each room is equipped with a private toilet, and bathrooms are shared. For your comfort, you will find free toiletries and a hairdryer. There is luggage storage space at the property. Guests can sample Japanese-style breakfast featuring seasonal ingredients. There is a public bathhouse located a 10-minute walk away. Nijo Castle is 2.4 km from Gallery Nozawa Inn, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.4 km from the property. Osaka Itami Airport is 36 km away.
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    • Guesthouse tu casa
      Budget-friendly
      Attractively located in the Higashiyama Ward district of Kyoto, Guesthouse tu casa is situated 1.2 km from Sanjusangen-do Temple, 1.4 km from Kiyomizu-dera Temple and 1.9 km from TKP Garden City Kyoto. Among the facilities at this property are a shared kitchen and a shared lounge, along with free WiFi throughout the property. The guest house has family rooms. At the guest house rooms are equipped with a shared bathroom. Samurai Kembu Kyoto is 2.2 km from Guesthouse tu casa, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.8 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 38 km from the accommodation.
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    • Mitsuki Kyoto
      Budget-friendly
      Set in Kyoto, within 600 metres of Kyoto International Manga Museum and 1.7 km of Nijo Castle, Mitsuki Kyoto offers accommodation with a garden and free WiFi throughout the property. The property is located 2.1 km from Kyoto Imperial Palace, 2.3 km from Heian Shrine and 2.3 km from Samurai Kembu Kyoto. The accommodation provides a concierge service, ticket service and luggage storage for guests. At the ryokan every room has a private bathroom. An Asian breakfast is available every morning at Mitsuki Kyoto. Guests at the accommodation will be able to enjoy activities in and around Kyoto, like cycling. Shoren-in Temple is 3.2 km from Mitsuki Kyoto, while TKP Garden City Kyoto is 3.4 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 39 km from the ryokan.
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    • Guest House Oumi
      Budget-friendly
      Well set in 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. At the guest house every room comes with a shared bathroom with free toiletries. A continental breakfast is available daily at guesthouseoumi. Nijo Castle is less than 1 km from the accommodation, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.2 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 37 km from Guest House Oumi.
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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. Boasting family rooms, this property also provides guests with a terrace. The accommodation features a 24-hour front desk, a concierge service and luggage storage for guests. All rooms are fitted with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a fridge, a kettle, a bidet, a hairdryer and a wardrobe. Featuring a private bathroom with a shower and free toiletries, rooms at the hotel also feature free WiFi. Shoren-in Temple is 2.7 km from Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandere, while Nijo Castle is 2.8 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 38 km from the accommodation.
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    • IMAYA Hostel Kyoto
      Budget-friendly
      Attractively situated in the centre of Kyoto, IMAYA Hostel Kyoto features air-conditioned rooms, a bar, free WiFi and a shared lounge. The property is around less than 1 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum, a 16-minute walk from Nijo Castle and 2.4 km from Samurai Kembu Kyoto. The accommodation provides a shared kitchen, a concierge service and ticket service for guests. The rooms at the hostel are fitted with a flat-screen TV and a kitchenette. The shared bathroom is fitted with a bidet, a hairdryer and free toiletries. All guest rooms will provide guests with a microwave. Kyoto Imperial Palace is 2.9 km from IMAYA Hostel Kyoto, while Heian Shrine is 3.1 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 38 km from the accommodation.
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    • Ryokan Tori
      Mid-range
      Ryokan Tori is located in Kyoto, 2 km from Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. The property is around 2.3 km from Nijo Castle and Kyoto Imperial Palace. The property is 3.2 km from Kinkaku-ji Temple and 3.7 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum. All guest rooms in the ryokan are fitted with a kettle. Each room has a shared bathroom, while selected rooms are fitted with a balcony and others also offer a garden view. All rooms will provide guests with a fridge. Guests at tori can enjoy an Asian breakfast. Heian Shrine is 5 km from the accommodation. Itami Airport is 50 km from the property.
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