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August 6, 2002
The formal name of this temple is Higashiyama Jishoji, which became a Zen temple in 1432. The entrance is along a path framed with tall manicured hedges atop rock and bamboo walls. The dramatic landscape continues with a lovely pond garden, and sculpted sand that looks like mountains (one particular mound is said to mimic Mt. Fuji). Note the way the picturesque rooftops of the buildings intermingle with the surrounding treetops.
The main focus of this complex is the two-story Kannonden, the so-called Temple of the Silver Pavilion. In a way, it is better this way without any glossy paint job. The pavilion has a quiet simplicity that is not to be found at the Golden Pavilion of Kinkaku-ji. The other original building in the complex is the Tougudo. Both the Kannonden and the Tougudo are recognized as "National Treasures" in Japan. The interiors are off-limits to tourists, but you can gain special admittance on occasion if you apply in advance.
From journal Bill in Japan - traditional KYOTO
July 12, 2001
Ginkakuji was the first temple we visited during our tour of Kyoto. The day was gray and the temperature in the low 30s (unusual for April). I don't know whether the weather contributed to enhancing the mood of Ginkakuji, but I thought that the temple complex was magical. Upon entering the main entrance, we were immediately struck by the 50 m high hedges that lined both sides of the approach to the temple. The hedges were made of stones, bamboos, and camelias, and were truly magnificent. Upon passing the gate to the temple courtyard, you are immediately struck by a mound of sand, about 2-3 feet high, in the form of a cut-off, inverted cone, immacurately raked. How the sand remains in shape must be a miracle of design. Immediately to the left of the cone is a courtyard of sand, raked in undulating waves and patterns.
The whole temple complex was immaculate. Anything that might remind a visitor of modern times is disguised, for example the grills to the sewer were covered with bamboo sticks woven together. Even in the cold and rain, several men were sweeping the temple walkways, trimming trees, and picking up fallen leaves. In this spotless environment, there was only one, just one, fallen magnolia bloom that had yet to be picked up by the gardeners. Follow the road at the back of the temple to a high point to admire the temple complex from above, examine the raked sand patterns, and see folding below you, the city of Kyoto.
From journal Kyoto - The Japan of Old