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Ginkaku-ji Temple (Silver Pavilion) 銀閣寺

Ginkaku-ji Temple (Silver Pavilion), Kyōto (© SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com)
Ginkaku-ji Temple (Silver Pavilion), Kyōto

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Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion, lying at the foot of Kyōto's Higashiyama, is the more common name for the Tōzan Jishō-ji Temple (東山慈照寺).


In 1460, shōgun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1436-1490) ordered the construction of a retirement villa, in the same line as the Kinkaku-ji built by his grand-father Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. The villa was not completed until 1482 due to the Ōnin Wars (1467-1477), which ravaged Kyōto like no other conflict since then and depleted the public finances. Progress faltered owing to lack of funds.

Construction of the two-storied Kannon-den (観音殿), the main building of the Ginkaku-ji, commenced in 1482. The so-called "Silver Pavilion" was never plated with sliver. The lack of political abilities (or affinities) of the hereditary ruler combined with empty coffers might have influenced Yoshimasa's decision to take up the orders and become Zen Buddhist monk in 1485. It is unknown whether the original plans to cover the pavilion in silver was abandoned because for financial reasons or because Yoshimasa envisaged it in a new Zen aesthetics of "wabi-sabi". Upon his death the villa was converted into a Buddhist temple, which took the name Jishō-ji.

Ginkaku-ji Temple, Kyoto
Ginkaku-ji Temple, Kyoto


The compound includes several buildings (Hondō, Tōgudō, Dōjin-sai) apart from the silver pavilion. The gardens and pond designed by the famous landscape gardener Sōami (1455-1525) are particularly beautiful.

The Ginshaden (Sea of Silver Sand) is a dry landscape garden with a perfectly smooth cone of sand standing in a sand garden. It is said to represent a mountain and the sea and is designed to reflect moonlight.

Like for the Kinkaku-ji, it pays to choose yout timing to visit the Ginkaku-ji. Its inclusion on many tours' list means that it can get very crowded on weekends, Japanese national holidays or during the cherry blossoms and autumn leaves season.

Opening Hours & Admission

Ginkakuji is open from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm between 15 March and 30 November, and from 9:00 am and 4:30 pm between 1 December and 14 March. Admission is ¥500.

Ginkaku-ji Temple, Kyoto
Sea of Silver Sand, Ginkaku-ji

How to get there

Bus 4, 5, 17 and 100 from Kyōto or Sanjō station, or bus 203 from Shijō or Demachiyanagi station stop at Ginkakuji-mae.

You can also walk from Nanzenji along the Path of Philosophy.

Access map

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