Ginkakuji (銀閣寺) aka the Silver Pavilion, is a Zen temple located at the Northern part of Kyoto’s eastern mountains (Higashiyama).  In 1482, shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa built his retirement villa on the grounds of today’s temple, modeling it after Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion), his grandfather’s retirement villa at the base of Kyoto’s northern mountains (Kitayama).  The villa was converted into a Zen temple after Yoshimasa’s death in 1490.

As the retirement villa of an art obsessed shogun, Ginkakuji became a center of contemporary culture, known as the Higashiyama Culture in contrast to the Kitayama Culture of his grandfather’s times. The arts developed and refined during the time include the tea ceremony, flower arrangement, noh theater, poetry, garden design and architecture.

Today, Ginkakuji consists of the Silver Pavilion, half a dozen other temple buildings, a beautiful moss garden and a unique dry sand garden.  Among its various treasures, the Togudo contains a study room of 4.5 tatami mats, which is considered to be the oldest extant example of Shoin architecture, the architecture style in which most contemporary tatami rooms are still designed today.  It contains the prototype for traditional tea pavilions used all over Japan.  The painted fusuma (sliding doors) are particularly beautiful (usually closed to the public).  Enjoy the place be sure to go through the garden, walking along the circular route around the grounds, from which the gardens and buildings can be viewed.