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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

History

Silver Pavilion (Ginkakuji Temple) 慈照寺(銀閣寺)

Once a shogun's retirement villa, now a classic Zen temple

Originally built as a retirement villa for a 15th-century shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, Ginkaku-ji is Japan's classic Zen temple and a perfect example of the wabi-sabi aesthetic of beauty in imperfection. Before it became a temple, the shogun's villa was the center of Higashiyama culture, from which flowered the tea ceremony, flower arrangement, poetry, and Noh theater.

Despite its name—which translates as Silver Pavilion—Ginkaku-ji is missing something, namely silver. The shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa originally planned to cover the outside in silver foil, but never did.

Don't Miss

  • Ginkaku, the main building
  • Find peace in the immaculate Zen garden
  • Other architectural treasures such as the teahouses

How to Get There

Ginkaku-ji Temple is in the Northern Higashiyama section of Kyoto city. It is in the heart of old Kyoto, next to the area of the old Kyoto Imperial Palace.

From Kyoto Station, take bus #5 or #17 to Ginkaku-ji-michi bus stop. It's a 10-minute walk from there.

An homage to Kinkaku-ji

This compound was originally built by the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa as a retirement villa in 1460 in eastern Kyoto. He added the structure now known as the Silver Pavilion in 1482, as a hall dedicated to the bodhisattva Kannon. He designed the building to look like a smaller, more humble Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji), which his grandfather, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, had commissioned.

Beautifully imperfect

In place of gold, Ginkaku was supposed to be covered in silver foil. That was never done, and with its unfinished look, it's believed that the structure looks as it did the last time Yoshimasa saw it. This perfectly embodies the Buddhist idea of wabi-sabi.

In 1485, Yoshimasa became a monk and took the name Jisho (meaning "Radiant Mercy"), hence the temple's official name of Jisho-ji. After Yoshimasa's death in 1490, it was turned into a temple upon his request.

Influential architecture

The Togudo, built in 1468, and to the left of the Silver Pavilion as you enter, is the second most important building of the compound. It is also a Buddhist hall but built in the style of a residence. The Togudo was a radical piece of architecture and influenced elite military architecture for generations afterward.

It also influenced the style of modern Japanese houses. Notable features unique at the time include a built-in desk (shoin), staggered shelving, a tokonoma (a recessed display space), and painted sliding screens. All of these features are still typically found in traditional Japanese homes. It is said that this is the first example of a 4.5 tatami mat tea room, which became the fundamental size for a tea ceremony.

A desire for peace

Yoshimasa's time as shogun was marked by strife and war, particularly the Onin War of 1467-77. He wasn't a capable ruler and wanted to relax in retirement. He was a great patron of the arts and brought painters and poets into his home.

Culture that spread throughout the nation

Ginkaku-ji was the center of Higashiyama culture, which influenced nobles and commoners alike. Many of the arts that are universally known as typically Japanese were developed during this time, including the tea ceremony, garden design, poetry, Noh theater, ikebana (flower arrangement) and Japanese architecture.

The grounds of Ginkaku-ji

The sand garden of Ginkaku-ji is famous for its meticulously arranged sand sculpture, said to represent Mt. Fuji.

This temple is a tourist favorite, so it's best seen in the off-season or just after opening and just before closing. A trail behind the garden offers an escape from the crowds, leading up a hill to a great view of the temple and the surrounding city.

While a visit to Ginkaku-ji can be completed in an hour, the surrounding area is a destination in itself filled with famous sites. These include many temples and shrines, including Chion-in Temple, Nanzen-ji Temple, and Heian Jingu Shrine. It is also very close to the Philosopher's Walk, a path that meanders along a stream, with trees and shrubs that inspire contemplation.

The Kyoto Zoo, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, National Museum of Modern Art, and other facilities dedicated to the art and culture of Kyoto and Japan also make this district a great place to visit.

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