In the 15th century, the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa built his retirement home in the foothills of the mountains in eastern Kyoto. He modeled the building after the retirement home of his grandfather, which would become the Golden Pavilion. When he died in 1490, the home became a Buddhist temple in accordance with his will.
At first sight, you may think, “Where’s the silver?” Sorry to disappoint, but the pavilion was never covered in silver. It earned its nickname either as a contrast to the Golden Pavilion or because the temple originally had a lacquer that reflected the moonlight, giving it a silvery appearance.
Today, most of the buildings are closed to the public, but the temple welcomes visitors to its gardens. There are two gardens here. The first one is a rock garden with a meticulously groomed cone of sand in the shape of Mt. Fuji called the Moon Viewing platform. The second is a moss garden that offers ponds, bridges and commanding view of Kyoto.
Getting to the Silver Pavilion is half of the fun. Take the from Heian Shrine or Keage subway station, follow the Philosopher’s Path north about two miles until you reach it. The temple is open from 8:30am to 5pm and the cost is 500 yen.
Though a bit of a walk, the Silver Pavilion’s moss and rock gardens make this temple worth a visit.