Home » Kyoto’s Golden and Silver Pavilions: Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji

Kyoto’s Golden and Silver Pavilions: Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji

Kyoto's Golden and Silver Pavilions

Kyoto’s Golden and Silver Pavilions are stark contrasts. Attracted by the allure of gold, I almost skipped the Silver Pavilion entirely. What a huge mistake this would’ve been.

The Golden Pavilion gets all the hype, and it’s easy to see why. Perched beside a small lake, it’s glitzy and extravagant. Named Kinkakuji in Japanese, the pavilion was originally a shogun’s retirement villa. It became a Zen temple after he died.



Completely covered in gold leaf, Kinkakuji looks almost unreal. The gold shines like a wrapper that could be peeled off to reveal chocolate underneath. The pavilion is unadulterated excess, but the surrounding gardens are lacklustre. It leaves a hollow feeling upon leaving.

The Silver Pavilion is different. Call it false advertising, but the Silver Pavilion isn’t even silver. Compared to other Japanese temples, this dark building is unimpressive.

But what the Silver Pavilion lacks in architectural splendor, it compensates with its otherworldly garden. The garden starts with a sea of silver sand, which is marked by the conical “Moon Viewing Platform”.

Ginkakuji garden

Ginkakuji garden
Ginkakuji garden

After this is the moss garden, which richly carpets the ground. It’s punctuated by little streams and bridges, like it’s a miniature kingdom you are viewing from the sky. Calm and serene, there are interesting discoveries around every corner.

Ginkakuji garden

The garden path then winds up a small hill, through a red and yellow forest. But these are not the reds and yellow of autumn, they’re another colour entirely, transplanted from an alien world.

Ginkakuji garden

Ginkakuji garden

From the top of the hill I looked down at the Silver Pavilion, the trees undulating in a gentle wave. The pavilion used to be covered in black lacquer, making it look silver when the moon was bright.

Golden and Silver Pavilions

It’s ironic then that it was named the Silver Pavilion to contrast with its more famous golden brother. Understated and elegant, silver’s much classier than gold.

Have you visited the Golden and Silver Pavilions? Leave a comment below


  1. Andrew says:

    Hey bro, just wanted to say you’re becoming quite the dab hand at these pieces. I think the balance between the text and pictures is great – the photos give you a taste and your writing is both informative and personal, such that people find out a bit about the subject while also deciding whether or not they agree with your take. And it takes two minutes to read. The length and consideration are key I reckon – they leave people wanting to find out more, which ultimately is what gets people travelling to places, right? Keep it up yo b-o.O-d .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *