One of the reasons I love to travel is that new sights and experiences always spark the imagination and widen the mind. So this month I’m going to catch you all up on my trip to Japan last December. I hope my adventures there inspire you to write new stories or give you ideas for your own vacation.
December 5, 2012 – Ginkaku-ji (Silver Temple), Kyoto
Giovano’s Italian restaurant, which we had dinner in the previous night was transformed into a bright breakfast bar. The long queue was worth braving, as we were rewarded with a buffet, consisting of both traditional Japanese and Western breakfast foods.
After stuffing ourselves silly, we finished packing and bade goodbye to the timeshare hotel.
Our first stop for the day was Ginkaku-ji, also known as the Silver Pavilion.
A Little History:
Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa built Ginkaku-ji in 1482 as a retirement villa. He modeled it after the famous Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion). In 1485, Yoshimasa became a Zen Buddhist monk, adopting the name Jisho-ji. Thus, after Yoshimasa’s death in 1490, the villa was converted into a Zen temple.
The Silver pavilion, also known as the Kannonden (Kannon Hall), was the first thing I saw as I entered the grounds. Although the interior of the building wasn’t open to the public, I discovered that within the temple was a statue of the Buddhist goddess of mercy, Kannon. (hence the name)
The Kannonden (Kannon Hall) or Silver Pavilion
Maiko’s dad, being the wonderful host that he was, purchased an audio guide so I could learn all about the pavilion and its various buildings.
The red audio guide slung around my neck
We walked along the path leading from the pavilion, passing several beautiful landmarks. The first was in front of the pavilion– a beautifully maintained dry sand garden, which locals call the “Sea of Silver Sand.”
The dry sand garden in front of the pavilion
The next two landmarks were the main hall (Hondo) and the Togudo hall. Both, like the pavilion are closed to the public. But thanks to my audio guide, I learned that the Togudo study room, containing 4.5 tatami mats, is considered to be the oldest example of the Shoin architecture. Most contemporary tatami rooms built today are based on the Shoin architectural style.
The Togudo, with a beautiful pond beside it.
The (extremely) cold weather didn’t stop us from enjoying Ginkakuji’s beautiful moss garden. Ponds surrounded by beautiful trees and plants, and little streams with small islands and bridges were scattered throughout the garden.
Moss garden pond
Despite it being winter, we were still able to enjoy the beautiful fall colors of the trees around the area.
Fall colors on the leaves of the Japanese Maple tree
Stone path strewn with orange leaves
The path around the garden led us up beautiful stone steps to a hill where we saw breathtaking views of the temple and the surrounding city.
view from the hill
After taking in the beautiful aerial view, we made our way down the path to the other side. We bumped into two girls dressed in traditional kimono (which they rented). They were nice enough to take a picture with us.
Japanese girls wearing traditional kimono
Thanks to my trusty audio guide, I learned the reason for the Silver Pavilion’s name. The temple was never covered in silver, instead, it used to be covered in black lacquer which looked silver in the moonlight.
To round off our tour of Ginkakuji, we bought souvenirs. Then, we headed to our next stop.
Kinkaku-ji (Golden Temple), Kyoto
By the entrance to the temple
A Little History
The golden temple, formally known as Rokuon-ji, was the retirement villa of shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, Yoshimasa’s (who built the silver temple) grandfather. After Yohismitsu’s death, the villa was turned into a Zen temple for the Rinzai sect.
Unlike the silver temple, the golden temple is exactly what it says it is. The first two floors are completely covered in gold leaf
The usual crowd of tourists and school kids on field trips was present at Kinkaku-ji. We had to wait for a few minutes before we could even take a proper picture in front of the temple.
We followed the route around the pond so we could view the temple up close. We even got to see this rare, and rather amusing sight of a raven resting on the temple’s golden bird.
We passed by the hojo, the head priest’s former living quarters. The building is known for its fusuma, or painted sliding doors.
Aside from gardens surrounding the temple, there really wasn’t much else to see.
So we headed toward the exit, where we passed by a small tea garden and some souvenir shops. We also passed by another small temple which housed a statue of Fudo, protector of Buddhism and one of the Five Wisdom Kings.
Tired of bumping into people and wanting to get away from the bitter cold, we piled into the car and began our hour long trip back to Osaka.
Dinner was at Maiko’s Dad’s favorite Udon restaurant. We ended the day’s adventure the way we began it–by sharing a wonderful meal.
** This Friday: Japanese Tea Ceremony
Ginkaku-ji (Silver Temple)
Kinkaku-ji (Golden Temple)
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