After our first night in Osaka, we left bright and early the next morning to head to our next Spring Break destination – Kyoto. At one time, it was the capital city of Japan, and is now ranked as the seventh largest city in Japan.
We spent two days in Kyoto, and today I want to compare two different landmarks in the city: Ginkakuji and Kinkakuji.
Built as a retirement villa for Ashikaga Yoshimasa (a Japanese shogun) Ginkakuji is now a peaceful garden and temple complex. In its prime, the villa was a hub for the arts and contemporary culture, and many things that define Japanese culture were established and refined here – like tea ceremonies, flower arranging, and garden design.
We visited Ginkakuji to walk through the moss garden and to see the famous Silver Pavilion – which isn’t really made of silver. It’s actually just a nickname so that people wouldn’t get it confused with Kinkakuji, the temple that inspired Yoshimasa to build his own.
It just so happened that the day we decided to visit Ginkakuji was one of the rainiest days on our entire trip. We didn’t have any umbrellas, so we started looking for a Family Mart or some sort of dollar/discount store. After walking in the rain for about five minutes, we gave up, and ducked into a small shop selling compact, 600 yen umbrellas.
Despite the rain, Ginkakuji turned out to be one of our favorite things about our vacation. So much so, that we bought a painting of the Silver Pavilion a few days later. In fact, we feel like the rain only added to the ambiance of the garden.
Between the soft, green moss, and the perfectly laid out walking paths, Ginkakuji was one of the most beautiful gardens/temple complexes that I’ve seen in Japan. It reminded us a lot of Rikugien Garden in Tokyo, but in my opinion, had a lot more character.
The Silver Pavilion was pretty, but what really stood out to me was the surrounding nature. Whoever is in charge of caring for the garden has done an incredible job of letting the natural elements grow on their own, but at the same time making them look pruned and manicured. Combined with the rhythmic pitter-patter of the rain, we felt like we had stepped into another world.
We enjoyed touching the moss and walking over the delicate foot bridges, and followed a path that took us up to a hill where we took in the amazing views of the temple complex and the city behind it.
Built for Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, another Japanese shogun and grandfather of Yoshimasa, this is another example of a retirement villa turned zen garden. Most people come to Kinkakuji to see the Golden Pavilion, which unlike the Silver Pavilion, is true to its name and is covered in gold leaf on the top two levels.
Yoshimitsu’s dream when having the villa built, was to copy the Kitayama culture – an extravagant way of living that was popular in the many wealthy aristocratic circles found in Kyoto. Each floor of the Golden Pavilion represents a different architectural style – if you want to read more about the styles and history of the pavilion, check this article out here.
Thankfully, it wasn’t rainy on our second day in Kyoto, so we were able to visit Kinkakuji without our umbrellas. Unfortunately, we weren’t as impressed with Kinkakuji, and spent less time walking through the complex.
The first thing that visitors see when they enter the garden is the Golden Pavilion. It was built overlooking a pond, and the deep golden tones of the temple reflect beautifully on the water.
Kinkakuji is definitely the more popular temple, and we found a bigger crowd of tourists than we did at Ginkakuji. This could be the case because it was raining when we went to the Silver Pavilion, but it made our visit to Kinkakuji a little less enjoyable.
From the Golden Pavilion, there are a few different walking paths that take you past the main pond, the priest’s former living quarters, a couple small gardens, and the Sekkatei Teahouse.
The Pavilion was definitely the main attraction, but unlike Ginkakuji, I felt like the walking paths and gardens were lacking. It was still a beautiful complex, but it just couldn’t compare to what we had seen at Ginkakuji.
Which one should I visit?
Obviously, this is only an opinion, so you should visit both! Both gardens were unique and beautiful in their own way, and are definitely worth exploring. If you’re not as impressed with nature as we are, you might actually think Kinkakuji is better. It’s all about perspective.
If you find yourself in Kyoto, visit both gardens and then let us know in the comments below what you think!
|8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.||500 yen|
|9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.||400 yen|