December 12, 2004

by KAI Kasumi

I would like to point out some of the more attractive aspects of Ginkakuji, and introduce some comments from its visitors.

First, I will explain a little about the temple. Ginkakuji was established in 1482 by Ashikaga Yoshimasa. Yoshimasa was the eighth Muromachi Shogun, but he was not really considered a politician. During his reign, uprisings happened frequently and the authority of the Muromachi shogunate plummeted. He did not set his mind to work in the political world, but instead, was very keen on the fine arts, industrial arts, architecture and so on. He was thought to have an artistic sense, which can be seen in Ginkakuji.

The Silver Pavilion is often compared with Kinkakuji which his grandfather, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, established on the west side of Kyoto. It is often said that Ginkakuji is unspectacular in contrast to Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, but as far as architecture is concerned, Ginkakuji is really far more beautiful than Kinkakuji.

Admission fee

Adult : 500 yen

Child : 300 yen

The admission ticket doubles as a charm representing the well-being of family and good fortune, so please keep it!

I asked visitors to Ginkakuji if they felt the admission fee was expensive, and this is the result: 4% said they thought it inexpensive, 13% said it was rather expensive, but 83% agree that it was fairly reasonable. Here are some of their comments.

Inexpensive :

“It takes a lot of money to maintain historical buildings.”

Expensive :

“Temples are sacred places, so they should not be used to make money.”

Reasonable :

“The fee is not really different from that of other temples.”

“We need to pay money to maintain temples in exchange for our enjoyment of them.”

“The garden is more beautiful than I expected.”

From the result of the questionnaire, I found that most people enjoy viewing not only the historical buildings, but also the magnificent garden.

After going though the main entrance, the high hedges and the courtyard, Ginsyadan and Kougetudai will certainly catch your eye, as they are created out of white sand.Ginsyadan with its straight lines represents waves, and the conical Kougetudai symbolizes Mt. Fuji.Ginkaku is surrounded by the well-designed pond, Kinkyochi, with the building reflected beautifully in the pond. Moving on, you will find the small waterfall, Sengetusen. Visitors throw coins into the water, imitating the similar custom seen at the famous Trevi Fountain, in Rome. There is also a spring named Oha-no-ido. The word Ocha means tea, and the reason why the spring came to be named Ocha-no–ido is that Yoshimasa drank tea made from the water in the spring. Going up the slope and steps, you will reach an observation point where you can get a wonderful view of Ginkakuji in its entirety.

In the autumn when the leaves turn, the ground is carpeted with red leaves, which make a vivid contrast of color with the moss that covers the ground.

Visitors’ impressions of the garden:

“I wonder how the patterns of Ginsyadan and Kougetudai were drawn.”

“It is a well-balanced garden.”

“It is varied with many types of nature, such as trees, a spring, a pond and so on.”

Finally, I asked some visitors if they would recommend other people to visit Ginkakuji. Of those I asked, 88% said yes, with only 12% answering no.

These are some of the comments of those I spoke to:

No :

“It was too crowded!”

Yes :

“The marvelous architecture and magnificent garden is well worth seeing.”

“I can enjoy seeing both historical buildings and a beautiful garden.”

“I want to come again in another season. For example, in the winter when it snows.”

I also recommend you visit this temple. The beauty of this temple and garden cannot be expressed merely through photographs. I urge you to visit and see them with your own eyes. The temple can be crowded at peak times, such as weekends, but it really is a must see for the visitor to Kyoto—in my opinion, of course!!

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