Kyoto’s Golden and Silver Pavilions are stark contrasts. Attracted by the allure of gold, I almost skipped the Silver Pavilion entirely. What a huge mistake this would’ve been.
The Golden Pavilion gets all the hype, and it’s easy to see why. Perched beside a small lake, it’s glitzy and extravagant. Named Kinkakuji in Japanese, the pavilion was originally a shogun’s retirement villa. It became a Zen temple after he died.
Completely covered in gold leaf, Kinkakuji looks almost unreal. The gold shines like a wrapper that could be peeled off to reveal chocolate underneath. The pavilion is unadulterated excess, but the surrounding gardens are lacklustre. It leaves a hollow feeling upon leaving.
The Silver Pavilion is different. Call it false advertising, but the Silver Pavilion isn’t even silver. Compared to other Japanese temples, this dark building is unimpressive.
But what the Silver Pavilion lacks in architectural splendor, it compensates with its otherworldly garden. The garden starts with a sea of silver sand, which is marked by the conical “Moon Viewing Platform”.
After this is the moss garden, which richly carpets the ground. It’s punctuated by little streams and bridges, like it’s a miniature kingdom you are viewing from the sky. Calm and serene, there are interesting discoveries around every corner.
The garden path then winds up a small hill, through a red and yellow forest. But these are not the reds and yellow of autumn, they’re another colour entirely, transplanted from an alien world.
From the top of the hill I looked down at the Silver Pavilion, the trees undulating in a gentle wave. The pavilion used to be covered in black lacquer, making it look silver when the moon was bright.
It’s ironic then that it was named the Silver Pavilion to contrast with its more famous golden brother. Understated and elegant, silver’s much classier than gold.
Have you visited the Golden and Silver Pavilions? Leave a comment below