Ginkakuji Temple (also called as Jishoji Temple) is located in the north eastern part of the Kyoto city and can be easily reached by bus from the JR Kyoto Station. This temple is well known to the foreign visitors as "Silver Pavilion". Ginkakuji Temple belongs to the Shokokuji branch of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. This temple was designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1994.
This temple was built in 1482 as a rural villa at the base of the Higashiyama hills by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (eighth Muromachi Shogunate), and is known as the Higashiyama-dono (Higashiyama Palace). Shogun Yoshimasa, following the famous Kinkakuji Temple Kitayama den built by his grandfather Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, built villa Higashiyama den to spend his retired life.
Ginkakuji Temple Seal
Ginkakuji is the common name, and formally it was called Higashiyama Jishoji, taking Shogun Yoshimasa's posthumous title after his death. Higashiyama den is the place where Higashiyama culture was formed mainly by Shogun Yoshimasa, and is the start of modern life style of the Japanese. Even now, the combination of Higashiyama culture and Zen culture can be seen in all the halls and gardens here.
Shogun Yoshimasa spent his whole life building Higashiyama villa. Here, the beauty of nature in each season is adapted skillfully giving the atmosphere of a profound spiritual world. It's garden matches harmoniously with Kannon-den (Ginkaku) and Togu-do (Buddhist Hall owned by Yoshimasa) and catches visitor's heart.
Togu-do and Garden
Kannon-den (Ginkaku or Silver Pavillion) is the main hall of the Ginkakuji temple and it has two floors. The first floor, Shinku-den is built in Shion style, traditional Japanese residential architecture style, and the second floor Cho-onkaku is a Chinese temple style having Katoumado in the panel walls and a Chinese sliding door. The bronze phoenix on the roof facing east constantly guards Ginkakuji and is dedicated to Kannon Bosatsu, the Goddess of Mercy.
Togu-do is a Buddhist Hall owned by Shogun Yoshimasa. The oldest Shoin style building existing in Japan, with one story Irimoya style and a roof thatched with Japanese cypress. The hall has a panel floored area in the south part, two Buddhist alter rooms on one side and two rooms in the north side. The 4.5 tatami mat room in the northeast side is called dojinsai, and was the stage originating Higashiyama culture.
Jishoji Temple was converted into a Zen temple following Yoshimasa's death.
In addition to the halls described above, Ginkakuji temple has beautiful gravel gardens all around, ponds and trimmed trees. You can walk up the Higashiyama mountain behind the temple (part of the temple precincts) and enjoy a panoramic view of the temple and parts of the Kyoto city.