“The front room of Togu-do (“East Seeking Hall,” a National Treasure) is where Shogun Ashikaga is thought to have lived, and the statue of the priest is probably of Yoshimasa himself. The back room, called Dojin-sai (“Comradely Abstinence”), became the prototype for traditional tea-ceremony rooms.

“Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) is a simple two-story building with a serene wooden exterior. Similar to its main inspiration, Kinkakuji, its design combines Chinese elements with the developing Japanese Muromachi (1338-1573) architecture.

“The upper floor shelters a golden statue of Kannon said to have been carved by Unkei, a famous Kamakura-period sculptor. Unfortunately it’s not normally open to public view. Also enshrined in the temple is Jizo, the guardian god of children.

“Another notable building is Togudo (East Seeking Hall), where Yoshimasa is believed to have lived in the front room. A statue of a priest is probably a portrait of the shogun himself. The back room, Dojinsai (Comradely Abstinence) was used for tea ceremonies and became the prototype for traditional tea pavilions that emerged across Japan in the following century.

“The temple complex includes lovely Japanese gardens. Attributed to the artist and architect Soami (1465-1523), they consist of two contrasting sections that combine harmoniously. The first, a green pond garden overlooked by the pavilion, is a composition of rocks and plants designed to afford different perspectives from each viewpoint. The second garden features two sculpted mounds of sand, the higher one of which may symbolize the sacred Mt. Fuji. It sparkles in the moonlight, giving it the nickname Sea of Silver Sand.”

Information source: Sacred Destinations: The Ginkaku-ji in Kyoto