Ginkaku-ji was intended to be the silver version of Kinkaku-ji across town (Golden Pavilion Temple).
The fact that Ginkaku-ji isn't completed isn't necessarily a bad thing. Many people prefer Ginkaku-ji's understated look and can't imagine it wrapped in silver.
Ginkaku-ji is considered an example of wabi-sabi — the Japanese aesthetic of the imperfect or incomplete. In other words, Japanese art and culture values imperfection.
Ginkaku-ji has a wonderful sand garden. The perfectly formed centerpiece of the garden is said to represent Mount Fuji. This is called the Kogetsudai (Moon Viewing Sand Mound).
The larger part of the sand garden is called The Ginshadan (Silver Sand Sea). It's designed to look like the waves of the ocean.
Along the pathway you will find some Very Important Moss in the garden. Japanese moss gardens are difficult to cultivate. It can take centuries to get the moss right.
Ginkaku-ji garden is a Japanese walking garden. It features a pathway that circles the garden. The pathway is intended to give visitors many different views of the garden below.
You will find a cedar and bamboo forest behind the pathway with enormous trees.
The main pavilion of Ginkaku-ji was built by the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa in 1482. It has never burned down — it looks exactly as the shogun knew it. His grandfather built it's sister temple (Kinkaku-ji) in 1398 (but it burned down in 1950 and was reconstructed). Fire is an endemic problem for Kyoto's historic buildings.