Jisho-ji Temple (慈照寺)

Jisho-ji Temple (a sub-temple of Shokoku-ji Temple) is located in Sakyo Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture and is associated with the typically Higashiyama Bunka Rinzai sect Shokoku-ji School.

Its formal name is Higashiyama Jisho-ji Temple. It is generally known as Ginkaku-ji Temple.
The honorific mountain prefix is 'Tozan.'
The kaiki (patron of a temple in its founding) was the 8th Shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA and the kaisan (the founder of a temple) was Muso Soseki. (Muso Soseki in fact lived a century before the temple's construction and kaisan in name only).

The multistoried Kannonden Hall constructed by Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA is popularly known as 'Ginkaku' (Silver Pavilion) and the entire temple complex, of which the Kannonden Hall is part, is commonly known as 'Ginkaku-ji Temple.'
This common name is the one used is modern guidebooks of famous sites.

The Rokuon-ji Temple Shariden Hall (reliquary hall), commonly known as Kinkaku (Golden Pavilion), is covered in gold leaf but the Jisho-ji Kannonden Hall, commonly known as Ginkaku (Silver Pavilion), is not covered in silver and is thought to have been entirely coated in lacquer.

A planned two-year restoration program began in February 2008 and it is currently not possible to see Ginkaku itself.

(As of May 2008, it is possible to see the frame and a sample of the roof.)


The 8th Shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA (1436-1490) resigned his position in favor of his heir Yoshihisa ASHIKAGA in 1473, and in 1482 he began construction of his villa named Higashiyama sanso (Higashiyama-dono) on the foothills of Mt. Tsukimachi-yama in Higashiyama (Kyoto Prefecture). This site was where the Jodo-ji Temple destroyed by fire during the Onin War once stood and still bears the name Jodo-ji, Sakyo Ward.

Following the end of the Onin War, the economy of Kyoto was in ruins but Yoshimasa imposed a tansen (surtax) and enslaved the population in order to proceed with the construction of his Higashiyama-dono villa while he indulged in such refined pursuits as calligraphy and the tea ceremony. The construction work continued for eight years until just before Yoshimasa's death but he did not wait for the villa's completion and moved onto the site in 1483 one year after construction began. The Higashiyama-dono villa included large-scale buildings such as meeting houses or noble family residences and, although it was not as large as Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA's Kitayama-dono villa (that later became Rokuon-ji Temple), it also had a certain political function. However, the only buildings from this era that remain are Ginkaku and Togu-do.

In February 1490, Higashiyama-dono villa was transformed into a temple as a memorial to the death of Yoshimasa in the same year, became a branch temple of the Shokoku-ji Temple and was called Jisho-ji Temple.

During the latter stage of the Sengoku Period, the site became the villa of the former chief advisor to the Emperor, Sakihisa KONOE, but this was due to the fact that many of the successive chief priests of Jisho-ji Temple were of the Konoe family. Following Sakihisa's death, the site was restored as a branch temple of the Shokoku-ji Temple.

On March 29, 1952, the gardens were designated both a Special Historic Site and a Special Place of Scenic Beauty. On December 17, 1994, the site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the "{Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto}."


Ginkaku-ji Fencing

The entrance pathway between the main gate and inner garden is lined with a distinctive fencing that has come to be known as Ginkaku-ji fencing (ginkaku-ji gaki).

Gardens (Special Historic Site/Special Place of Scenic Beauty)

The Chisen Kaiyu style garden is centered around the Kinkyo-chi pond. Created to imitate the garden (designed by Muso Soseki) of Saiho-ji Temple, also known as "Koke-dera temple," it was subjected to renovations during the Edo Period that are said to have robbed it of any resemblance to how it originally looked. The two piles of sand known as "Ginshadan" and "Kogetsudai" also took on their current shapes during the latter part of the Edo Period. The dry landscape garden on the eastern hillside was excavated in 1931 so retains the original look of the Muromachi Period.

Togu-do (National Treasure)

Established in 1486 as Yoshimasa's private Buddhist hall. The name Togu-do was selected by Rinzai Zen priest Osen Keisan. It was built facing the pond and is approximately 6.4 meters square. The front left house is an altar room of approximately 3.6m and the inside right is Yoshimasa's study (known as Dojinsai). The built-in table and staggered shelves in the northern part of the study are what remains of the oldest ornamental objects of the era and are extremely valuable to Japan as the source of the Shoinzukuri architectural style and the thatched tearoom. It is assumed that this structure originally in a more southerly position close to Ginkaku.

Ginkaku (National Treasure)

Ginkaku is the popular name for the Kannonden Hall of Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA's Higashiyama-dono villa and was given this nickname as a comparison to the Rokuon-ji Temple constructed by his grandfather, the third Shogun of the Ashikaga Shogunate Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA. It is known that construction began in 1489 and is thought have been completed soon in the same year. It is multistoried, Hogyo-zukuri (the square-styled) pavilion with a shingled roof and is rectangular in shape with dimensions of 8.2 m x 7.0 m. The ground floor (known as 'Shinkuden') is in a domestic style and the upper level (known as 'Choonkaku') is a roughly 5.5m (with three bays at the front and back) Zen style (Chinese architectural style) Buddha hall. The building incorporates design elements from the Shoinzukuri style of Japanese housing and is representative of Higashiyama culture.

As the name suggests, Rokuon-ji Temple's Kinkaku (Gold Pavilion) is covered in gold leaf but there are no traces that Ginkaku (Silver Pavilion) was ever covered in silver leaf (on January 5, 2007 it was announced that a scientific investigation detected absolutely no traces of silver foil). Considering that the gardens of Jisho-ji Temple contain many famous stones and trees with absolutely no expense spared in their design, and also that the Higashiyama culture of the period was based on the simplicity of the tea ceremony and Zen, it is highly likely that never were any plans to cover the structure in silver leaf. It has been said that there were originally plans to use silver leaf as the name suggests and that these were prevented by the financial circumstances of the Shogunate or the death of Yoshimasa, but these are little more than rumors. It is also said that Yosimasa's wife Tomiko HINO did not make any financial contribution.

Ginkaku is one of "Kyoto's three great pavilions" along with Kinkaku and Hiunkaku (in the grounds of West-Hongan-ji Temple).


Location: Ginkakuji-cho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto City

Transportation: Take the Kyoto City Bus to Ginkaku-ji Mae and walk for 6 minutes or take the Kyoto Bus or Keihan Bus to Ginkaku-ji Michi and walk for 10 minutes.

[Original Japanese]