Soul of the Garden

Images of Japan: Ginkaku-ji

"Temple of the Silver Pavilion"

Ginkaku-ji is truly a wonder in a city filled with wonders. I longed to visit this place for nearly thirty years and when I finally rounded the corner and stepped into the inner-courtyard with its spectacular "moon gazing height"  and raked gravel terrace I was not disappointed - it truly has a magical quality. Popularly known as the "Temple of the Silver Pavilion," it should be called the "Temple that Wanted to be Silver." Unlike its famous cousin, Kinkaku-ji, home of the "Golden Pavilion," the intended silver-foil covering for Ginkaku-ji was never applied. Don't worry though, you won't miss it. Ginkaku-ji was built as the retirement villa of a Shogun with very refined tastes. Over the years Ginkaku-ji attracted many honored guests -  the walls of one of the villas's rooms were painted by the renowned haiku poet, Buson, who should be equally acclaimed as an artist. His painting shows "drunken poets wandering through a garden" - you've got to love that! There are two gardens close to the villa, one surrounds a pond and is  ornamented with carefully chosen stones, beautifully shaped plants, and gorgeous swaths of moss; the other is the famous dry garden with its raked gravel. A classic strolling garden leads you up onto the side of an adjoining hill with fine views of the site and Kyoto in the distance. The gardens are attributed to the renowned garden designer and architect Soami (1465-1523.)

After passing through a rather humble gate, you enter Ginkaku-ji by passing through these towering hedges... of camellias!


The villa. The building on the right was the private retreat of the retired Shogun and is thought to be the proto-type of the Japanese tea house. Note the stone foot bridge  over the pond.


The "moon gazing height." A stylized Mt. Fuji? Perfectly formed, yet loose sand / gravel. That is the "silver" pavilion to the right.


An artfully pruned pine and the raked gravel terrace.


Terrace and moon gazing height.


Close-up. I guess they don't have Texas-styled downpours!


Red leafed peonies.


Intricate patterns and geometry.


Another view of the pond.


A corner detail.


Every shrub seemed trained... nothing left to chance.


Along the edge of the pond.


Along the path in the strolling garden.


A perfectly executed stairway.


The pavilion with Kyoto in the distance.


A waterfall of moss.


More snipping.


Moss carpeting the ground and a perfectly placed boulder.

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