The official name of Ginkaku-ji is Jisho-ji, a temple affiliated with the Shokoku-ji. Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) was named in the Edo Period in contrast to Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion).
Ashikaga Yoshimasa, the eighth shogun of the Muromachi shogunate, originally built Ginkaku-ji as the Higashiyama-den Palace. After Yoshimasa’s death, the palace became a temple of the Rinzai Zen school, bearing the posthumous name of Yoshimasa Buddhism, “Jisho-in.
Yoshimasa became the head of the family at the age of 9 and the shogun at 15. He spent his entire life pursuing aesthetic beauty. His Higashiyama-den Palace reflected the essence of Higashiyama culture of refined simplicity. Ginkaku-ji still retains Yoshimasa’s spirit of aesthetic pursuit, even 500 years later.
In 1550, toward the end of the Muromachi shogunate, a battle took place between Miyoshi Chokei (also Nagayoshi, 1522-64) and the 15th Ashikaga Yoshiteru shogun (1536-65) in the vicinity of Jisho-ji. With the exception of the Silver Pavilion and Togudo, all buildings on the grounds were destroyed by fire. The temple fell into a ruinous state when the Muromachi shogunate declined.
In 1615, at the beginning of the Edo period (1615-1868), Miyagi Tamba no Kami Toyomori carried out a large-scale restoration of the temple, largely creating today’s Ginkaku-ji. Although it was originally built as a residence for the shogun, the buildings and gardens were redesigned in a suitable style as a Zen temple.
Ginkaku-ji, like Kinkaku-ji, is considered a affiliate temple of Shokoku-ji. Its official name is Tozan (Eastern Mountains) Jisho-ji. The gentle hills along Kyoto’s eastern edge are called Higashiyama, and since ancient times they have been considered to have a feminine sweetness. These mountains are a treasured part of Kyoto’s landscape. Ginkaku-ji is located in the foothills of Daimonjiyama.
The “Philosopher’s Path” is known as a favorite walk of philosopher Nishida Kitaro (1870-1945), and a wonderful route to enjoy cherry blossoms in spring and fireflies in summer. The path passes through its main gate.
Constructions and Garden
The symbol of Jisho-ji, located in the Silver Pavilion that gives the temple its popular name, is the national treasure, Kannon-den. As an expression of his spiritual beliefs, Yoshimasa named the first floor Shinku-den (Hall of the Empty Mind) and the second floor Cho’on-kaku (Wave Sound Pavilion). He is famous for following the styles of Rokuon-ji’s shrine room and Saiho-ji’s Ruriden at the same time, which is the only remaining example of multi-story building architecture within a garden of the Muromachi period. The contrast between the sand pile at Kogetsudai and the undulating appearance of Ginshadan invites visitors into a world that is difficult to leave behind.
In front of the temple, white sand is stacked to form the Ginshadan as a staircase and the truncated cone structure of Kogetsudai. The folklore says that the Ginshadan must have reflected the moonlight, and that the Kogetsudai seemed to be sitting on Higashiyama holding the moon. These constructions are certainly fantastic and particular.
Ginkaku-ji Temple is part of the ancient Kyoto Historical Monument complex, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. It is a must see in the beautiful city of Kyoto.
From Ginkakuji-Michi bus stop
Adult 500 yen, Elementary and Junior high school student 300 yen
March to November: From 8:30 to 17:00
December to February: From 9:00 to 16:30