Nikon F6, Nikkor AF 35-105/3.5-4.5 D IF, Fuji Velvia 100

Our second major destination in Kyoto was the Ginkaku-ji Temple, also known as the Silver Pavilion.

The Ginkaku-ji Zen Temple is nestled in the foothills on the east side of Kyoto.  It includes a few historic buildings, a beautiful sand garden and sculpture, and several connected ponds and woods.

Its construction began in 1482 and it originally served as a retirement home for the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa.  After his death in 1490 it became a Buddhist temple according to his wishes.

Unlike at the Heian Shrine, tripod photography is not allowed at the Silver Pavilion.  While the overcast weather afforded some soft lighting, it also made handheld shots with Velvia 100 quiet challenging and I often had to resort to resting on a post or against a tree to stabilize myself.

You encounter the main temple to the right as soon as you have entered the main grounds.  You also see a finely sculpted Zen rock garden and sculpture in the shape of a cone.


Walking around the main rock garden you start to enter the rest of the grounds.  There are several other buildings and side gardens along the way.


There are a few paths which wind around ponds, a wishing well and small grassy areas.  The main path starts to wind up hill with a mixture of rock and bamboo steps along the way.


And if you keep going to the top you are rewarded with a view back down towards the rock garden and temple.


You can casually explore the whole grounds in half an hour or so, but if you want to linger at all (and I recommend that you do!) plan for an hour or more.

Even though they say the temple closes at 5:20 PM they actually mean they expect you to be completely off the grounds by then.  The caretakers start to politely but firmly usher you out shortly after they play a ritual drum cadence at 5 PM.

Note: If you find your 3-year old has fallen asleep on your shoulder or lap when you get there shortly before closing, you may not want to rest in the covered area near the rock garden.  The drum ceremony at closing is not conducive to nap taking!

Written by Bubble Level

Jamie Zucek lives in California and enjoys film and digital photography, collecting and shooting vintage and modern cameras whenever he can.

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