The Temple of the Silver Pavilion was intended to dazzle the courtly world with its opulence, but the current structure is an exercise in elegance and restraint. Yoshimasa Ashikaga spent years constructing his retirement villa in a conspicuous homage to his grandfather's Golden Pavilion on the opposite end of town. Carefully sculpted gardens surround a two-story mansion that the shogun originally intended to be wrapped in silver leaf. During construction in the 1470s, a tumultuous war and government unrest meant funds for the audacious project dried up. What remains is a quintessentially peaceful place. High earthen walls frame a modest compound of buildings giving way to extensive gardens. The lovely Silver Pavilion, which stares down at its reflection in the water, sits among the rolling moss-covered hillsides, dark pools, and an enormous dry garden, called the Sea of Sand. To reach Ginkaku-ji from Kyoto Station, take Bus 5, 11, or 17 to the Ginkaku-ji-michi bus stop.
1 Ginkaku-ji-cho, Kyōto, 606-8402, Japan