Kyoto's Most Beautiful Temple: Ginkakuji

Kyoto's three major temples are Kiyomizudera, Kinkakuji, and Ginkakuji. They each have their charms, but this might be my favorite.
 Ginkakuji basically translates as the Silver Pavilion. Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) is covered in gold, but is Ginkakuji covered in silver? Start by following the approach to the front gate.
 After you pay your admission fee, you can see the Hondo.
 Then, there are some well-cared for sand gardens, which leads to the Togudo. The Togudo dates back to the temple's foundation, as does the Ginkakuji pavilion.
 On a nice sunny day, the manicured foliage and perfectly maintained are simply gorgeous.
 The massive sand cone is called the Moon Viewing Platform. No, you can not climb it.
 Here is Ginkakuji, officially called Kannonden. Silver, it is not. The name "Silver Pavilion" was given to the temple as a nickname more than a century after the building was constructed. Some say it was a contrast to the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) also found in Kyoto. Others say it was due to the reflection of moonlight off of the building's dark exterior - it used to be covered in black lacquer. Either way, the building has never been covered in silver. It, like the Togudo, has existed since the temple was founded, though it has been renovated and strengthened to protect it against earthquakes several times over the years.

 After viewing the three buildings from one side of the pond, the route heads into the moss garden. Here, you'll find lots of little streams, plants, ponds, islands, and bridges.

 Finally, you'll return to the front area of the temple grounds, where you'll have another chance to admire Ginkakuji before exiting.

While most probably visit just to see Ginkakuji itself, the stroll through the moss garden and the views around the pond made this an amazingly beautiful surprise. Ginkakuji is a major tourist destination in Kyoto, but don't let that deter you. Even during the peak of the peak season, when the grounds were quite busy, I was able to find clearings to get good photos and enjoy my stroll through the moss garden. On normal and light days, it should be even nicer.

I took bus 100 from Kyoto Station, but you can also get there by riding bus 5 or 17 (about 35-40 minutes). You can walk from Nanzenji along the Philosopher's Path in about 35-40 minutes; those two temples and a couple stops along the way make for a very nice afternoon.The grounds are open 8:30-17:00 (9:00-16:30 in winter) and admission is 500 yen.

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