Colloquially known as the Silver Pavilion or Ginkaku-ji, Jisho-ji is one of Kyoto’s most popular tourist destinations. It dates back to the late 15th century and was designed by the then-shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. It is beloved for its wooden pavilion and gorgeous strolling garden; but one of the most iconic structures inside may be Kogetsudai, or the Moon-Viewing Mound.

Moon-Viewing Mound at the Silver Pavilion

Moon-Viewing Mound at the Silver Pavilion

The Moon-Viewing Mound is one of the first things you see when you enter the temple: an elegant, perfectly sculpted cone of white sand and crushed granite resembling a small mountain. It is beautiful in all lights and weather—gleaming and glinting when the sun shines, or painted with stark, angular shadows during golden hour. When you view it from the platform on the other side of the Silver Sea, it is supposed to resemble Mt. Fuji. It’s said, too, that the sight of the moon rising over the pavilion and the Moon-Viewing Mound is sublime.

Building the Moon-Viewing Mound

Building the Moon-Viewing Mound

The Moon-Viewing Mound is not a permanent structure; that would mean it had been standing here for several centuries! The gardeners at the Silver Pavilion rebuild the white sand mountain once or twice a month, or more if there’s damage from rain or wind.

Building this is a team effort that takes a crew of three or four gardeners. They’ll build a mound out of sand. Then, they splash buckets of water, which helps hold the sand together.

King of the Mountain

A rare sight at the Silver Pavilion

Wet sand holds its shape surprisingly well. Once it’s built up, it’s sturdy enough that the gardeners can even climb on top and sit on it – almost like they’re king of the mountain!

The mound at the Silver Pavilion

The final stage of creating the Moon-Viewing Mound is patting everything down with flat wooden paddles. They begin from the top and work their way down, creating the characteristic smooth surface that gleams in the sunlight.

Building the mound

Most visitors to the Silver Pavilion will only ever see the Moon-Viewing Mound in its final incarnation—a perfect cone surrounded by finely-raked white sand. But if you’re lucky, you might just be able to catch the gardeners in action one day.

How to get here

Name: Jisho-ji
Address: 2 Ginkakujicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8402
Open: 8:30am–5:00pm

Post by Japan Journeys