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Ginkaku-ji (銀閣寺 / Temple of the Silver Pavilion)

Ginkaku-ji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion) is the more common name for Jisho-ji, a temple belonging to the Shokoku School of the Rinzai Zen sect of Buddhism.
This popular tourist site was (along with 16 other sites in Kyoto) listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1994.

(Ginkaku-ji (銀閣寺 / Temple of the Silver Pavilion) / Image)

Ginkaku-ji was not originally a temple. Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1436-1490), the 8th Ashikaga Shogun and grandson of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (constructor of Kinkaku-ji, the temple of the golden pavilion) began construction in 1460 but was prevented from immediately completing his retirement villa due to the Onin Wars (1467-1477).


(Togu-do & Pond)

The Onin wars were a series of senseless conflicts in which most of Kyoto was destroyed (Kyoto was the actual battlefield) caused in part by his selection of an heir to the title of Shogun. Having no children of his own, Yoshimasa initially opted for his younger brother to succeed him. However, in 1465 his wife bore a son and split factions formed each laying claim to the title "Shogun". The ten year war ripped Kyoto apart (miraculously Yoshimasa's villa was untouched) and even after the war was over, skirmishes continued throughout the country. Although Yoshimasa abdicated his position of shogun to his son in 1473, his brother's son was named Shogun after Yoshimasa's son's death in 1489, making up for the earlier slight.


(The Togu-do)

Ginkaku became Yoshimasa's escape from the ravages of the civil war. Construction of what was known as Higashiyamadono - the palace of the Eastern Mountains, was eventually resumed in 1480. Yoshimasa relocated to Higashiyamadono in 1483 and lived there, holding Noh plays, tea ceremonies, and enjoying things of an aesthetic nature until his death in 1490. The construction of buildings and the garden continued until his death. By 1490 a total of 12 buildings and an expansive garden had been completed. Following in his grandfather's footsteps (Ashikaga Yoshimitsu), Yoshimasa had his villa turned into a Zen Buddhist temple after his death. He also had the temple named Joshi-ji, after his Buddhist name.


(Natural spring used for tea ceremony)

After his death the temple began to dilapidate and it was in a sad state by 1615, when a major restoration was begun by the Shokoku School. So extensive were the renovations that very few of the garden's stone arrangements were left in their original positions. The temple today, though not the palace created by Yoshimasa, is still an impressive assembly of traditional Japanese landscaping and architecture that is a must see during your stay in Kyoto.

By T.S. on June 2, 2010
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tag : Kyoto & Kansai

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