A Visit to Ginkakuji (Part 2)

(For the first half of the adventure at Ginkaku-ji, start here.)

After hiking a mountainous path to see Ginkaku-ji’s famous Silver Pavilion from the elevated vantage point atop the temple gardens:

15J04 Ginkakuji pavilion 2

My son and I descended the slippery stone steps (carefully–I didn’t want to ruin the trip by falling off a mountain right at the outset) through groves of bamboo, pine, and maple:

15J04 Ginkakuji bamboo

…to the famous gardens that surround the pavilion itself:

15J04 Ginkakuji pavilion garden

Although most people refer to the temple as Ginkaku-ji (“Temple of the Silver Pavilion”), its actual name is Jishō-ji (“Temple of Shining Mercy”). Construction of the main temple began in 1482, on the order of Ashikaga Yoshimasa, the eighth Ashikaga Shogun.

15J06 Ashikaga Yoshimasa

Yoshimasa-san designed the temple to emulate Kinkaku-ji, the “Golden Pavilion,” constructed to honor his grandfather, Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.

The temple is close to my heart because my Shinobi Mystery series is set in the 16th century, during the Ashikaga Shogunate, and although my characters don’t actually visit Ginkaku-ji (it was originally designed and used as a place of solitude for the shogun, and later as his tomb–he’s actually buried inside that pavilion).

After a reflective few minutes around the pavilion and its pond, we moved on, following the path to the famous “sand garden” (also known as a dry garden or “Zen landscape”) which sits at the far side of the temple complex.

15J04 Ginkakuji Zen Garden

The sand garden has a mound of sand at its center which represents Mount Fuji, and this part of the temple is highly popular with tourists. We didn’t stay long, or take many photos, because of the number of tour groups surrounding the sand garden that morning–whenever possible, I prefer to take photos without strangers in them, because I’d have to crop them out before posting the photos, and it’s hard to get good images in crowded spaces.

More importantly, we saw few people during our half-hour walk through the garden and up the side of the lovely mountain, and that silent, reflective experience was the way I want to remember Ginkaku-ji–the way Shogun Ashikaga intended.

15J04 Ginkakuji pavilion

What’s your favorite place of solitude? Do you prefer to visit sites in the company of others, or to experience them mostly on your own?