Ginkaku-ji Temple, Kyoto

Ginkaku-ji Temple, Kyoto (must see)

Once the retirement home of Yoshimasa, the eighth Ashigaka Shogun, who evolved the famous tea ceremony tradition, this 15th-century Zen Buddhist temple – declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 – is considered the 'little brother' of Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), but arguably has more scenic and exquisite gardens.

The irony is that Ginkaku-ji was never actually covered in silver; rather, the moonlight reflecting on the dark exterior (originally covered in black lacquer) was what gave the building its silvery appearance. Moreover, the grounds comprise a famous 1.75-acre dry sand garden that, in turn, reflects the moonlight and would appear like a "sea of silver sand". Sculpted with perfect precision and featuring a cone-like representation of Mount Fuji, this marvel alone is worth the trip!

From the "sea of silver sand" (or "Moon-Viewing Platform”), the grounds open up to a moss garden featuring ponds with islands and short bridges, streams, and a variety of foliage. Eventually, the walkway snakes up to a lookout point of the entire temple grounds and the sprawling city beyond. It is beautifully solid underfoot, paved with a mixture of large and smaller stones which create the perfect stride length for a safe/undemanding climb (there are thick bamboo handrails should you need them).

Although rather busy, you can still feel contemplative here. The walk is one way, so there is no problem with getting in each other's way.

Why You Should Visit:
This temple has it all: beautiful gardens, bamboo section, little waterfalls, and a walkway up to view the whole complex.
Both of the gardens have a small traditional market leading up to them, with plenty of souvenirs/crafts/snacks to be found.
The craft gifts are very reasonably priced, especially the unique rabbit-themed and fan shops not found in the rest of Kyoto.

Tip:
Best visited early in the day or at sunset for the views and quiet.
If you go early in the morning, you might see the meticulous sand raking by the temple monks.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:30am-5pm (Mar–Nov); 9am-4:30pm (Dec–Feb)

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Kyoto. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Ginkaku-ji Temple on Map

Sight Name: Ginkaku-ji Temple
Sight Location: Kyoto, Japan (See walking tours in Kyoto)
Sight Type: Religious
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in Kyoto, Japan

Create Your Own Walk in Kyoto

Create Your Own Walk in Kyoto

Creating your own self-guided walk in Kyoto is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Walk on Philosopher's Path

Walk on Philosopher's Path

Extending about 2 km along a canal carrying water from Lake Biwa to the foothills, the Philosopher's Path (so called because famed Japanese philosopher, Nishida Kitaro, used to walk it as a daily meditation before WWII) is perfect for a leisurely stroll with views that change through the seasons; cherries followed by new green leaves and, then again, the pastel hues of autumn.

It's...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles
Higashiyama Walking Tour

Higashiyama Walking Tour

Kyoto is a city catering for tourists, especially the ones with love of history, religion and, of course, Japanese culture. Many of Kyoto's attractions are located in the eastern part of the city, which itself is split into wards. One of them is the Higashiyama Ward, home to several famous temples of Kyoto, including centuries-old Zen and Shinto sites such as lantern-lit Yasaka shrine and...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Imperial Kyoto Walking Tour

Imperial Kyoto Walking Tour

The former capital of Japan, Kyoto is the city of tradition, history and culture. Attesting to this is the central part of the city, replete with historic attractions – centuries-old imperial palaces, castles and shrines that have seen a lot in the turbulent past of Kyoto. The explore the most prominent of them and to feel the breath of antiquity, follow this self-guided walk.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 Km or 2.5 Miles
Kyoto Shopping and Food Tour

Kyoto Shopping and Food Tour

The cultural capital of Japan, Kyoto is just as famous as a shopper’s paradise and is, without saying, the best place in the country to buy traditional and modern Japanese goods. Souvenirs, food, bargains and various “one-of-a-kind items” are all up for grabs here. If you would like to walk around Kyoto on your own two feet and enjoy shopping and authentic Japanese cooking, follow this...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles
Arashiyama and Bamboo Grove Walking Tour

Arashiyama and Bamboo Grove Walking Tour

The Arashiyama district is slightly out of way for tourists – but that just means one can enjoy it more comfortably. While arguably the most popular attraction here is the 'bamboo path' with its magnificent, towering bamboos, you should also enjoy other scenic attractions such as the Ōi River and Mount Arashi, or the Monkey Park, all within walking distance and selected/described in...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 Km or 2.1 Miles
Gion District Walking Tour

Gion District Walking Tour

Famed for being one of the most mesmerizing parts of Kyoto, Gion is the area long associated with traditional Japanese entertainment, stunning temples, geisha and local eateries ideal to while away a day in the ancient capital of Japan. The district forms part of the Higashiyama (“Eastern Mountain”) neighborhood lying north and south of Shijo Street, stretching from Yasaka Shrine in the east...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip


18 Japanese Products To Bring Home from Kyoto

18 Japanese Products To Bring Home from Kyoto

The old capital of Japan, the city of Kyoto has once again been the talk of the world lately, thanks to the bestselling "Memoirs of a Geisha" book and the namesake Hollywood blockbuster movie. Renowned for its impeccable craftsmanship, Japan has so much to amaze a foreign eye with. Many of...