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The Golden and Silver Temples of Kyoto

Are you currently planning a stay in the wonderful city of Kyoto or perhaps just wanting to learn even more about this beautiful and ancient city that has so many amazing places truly worth seeing and simply marveling at? Are the ancient Zen temples of Japan one of your primary interests in the cultural history of this classical masterpiece of a beautiful capitol city? If so, then there are a couple of legendary temples that will certainly be high on the list of attractions you will likely be wanting to visit or know more about and thankfully they are worth all the attention that they receive from the many visitors that flock to their beautiful gardens every day, year after year.

The temples we are speaking of are the golden and silver pavilions of Kyoto known by their respective Japanese names as “Kinkaku-ji” (golden) and “Ginkaku-ji” (silver). They balance the city of Kyoto with the imperial palace in the center and Kinkaku-ji to the left, Ginkaku-ji to the right. They are truly, in a romantic sense, the architectural sun and moon of Kyoto. Their presence and their pristine beauty are a testament to the spectacular skill of the architects, craftsmen, and artists of Kyoto. Hundreds of years later, daily visitors to these wonderful temples still enjoy them as much as their visitors did when they were first built, if not more.

Let’s take a look at the background of each of these temples to understand even more about them.

Kinkaku-ji translates literally as “The Temple of The Golden Pavilion” and is located in the western part of the city of Kyoto. The pavilion itself which is the famous golden centerpiece was originally built in 1397 and, as many buildings in Japan are wooden, has been restored many times over the centuries. At its peak is fittingly a phoenix and the current pavilion itself actually rose from the ashes after being burned down in 1950. The top 2 stories are coated with a relatively thick layer of gold leaf which was restored near the end of the 20th century. It is truly a spectacular sight to see and one may wonder if it is only a dream upon first seeing it. The way it reflects in the beautiful pond upon whose bank it rests is so gorgeous that it can easily make anyone appreciate the pristine golden tranquility of Zen.

Ginkaku-ji translates literally as “The Temple of The Silver Pavilion” and is located in the eastern part of Kyoto. The construction of the main hall began in 1482. It was commissioned by a grandson of the shogun who commissioned Kinkaku-ji. The temple was, in accord with its name, originally intended to be coated with silver foil as a tribute and addition to Kinkaku-ji which its architecture is actually intended as a replica of. Due to complications arising from political issues in the area, the foil was never applied before the shogun passed away. The concept is currently appreciated as a unique expression of Japanese artistic aesthetic in which beautiful accidents are appreciated rather than hidden. The pavilion as it stands today is a symbolic human story rather than simply a pretty silver building.

Certainly visit these two beautiful places when you are in Kyoto, and also be sure you bring your camera. You will likely be taking lots of photos.