Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji. Both are popular sightseeing spots in Kyoto.
Their names sound alike; except for the first letter (K and G) they’re the same.
This makes people guess that they must be related to each other. Read on to find out what they are and how they are related.
Contradiction Of The Name
Let’s go over their names first. As mentioned above, the only difference when it comes the name is the first part, Kin and Gin. Kin means “gold” and Gin means “silver” in Japanese. This might make people who have seen the pictures of both temples confused. The Kinkakuji is actually covered by leaf gold. But what about Ginkakuji? Obviously it’s not covered in silver. So, why is it called “Ginkakuji”? There are a few hypotheses.
1. It was not planned to be covered in silver leaf. But Ginkakuji was built to emulate Kinkakuji. So to make them related to each other, in response to the name Kinkakuji, people started calling this hall “Ginkakuji” in the beginning of Edo Period (1603 – 1868).
2. It was planned to be covered with silver leaf. But due to a lack of financial resources, this was not achieved.
3. It was covered by silver leaf, but it has come off.
Although it is not covered by silver leaf, Ginkakuji is still as important as Kinkakuji. Find out more about what they are and why are important below.
Kinkakuji, also known as the “Golden Pavilion” is not the official name. In fact, it doesn’t have a specific name. It is basically a hall to keep objects which are regarded to be the bones of Buddha. This hall and the whole area used to be a villa belonging to the general Yoshimitsu Ashikaga (1358 – 1408). His will specified that after his death this villa was to be turned into a temple. The temple, which includes this hall, was named “Rokuonji” Temple.
Ginkakuji was built by a different General, Yoshimasa Ashiakaga. He was the grandson of Yoshimitsu, who Yoshimasa respected. Although he had some connection to Zen preachers, as did Yoshimitsu, Yoshimasa created the temple for cultural reasons, not for harsh Zen training. His support staff was not very competent, which resulted in political instability. As a matter of fact, there was a war which burned down all of Kyoto, called “Onin no Ran” (1467 – 1477). After this war, Yoshimasa began building a villa. This is the temple called “Jishoji”. The hall, now called “Ginkaku”, was dedicated to the Kannon “God of Merchy”. However, right before this hall was completed (January 1490), Yoshimasa passed away.
Kinkakuji (Rokuonji) and Ginkakuji (Jishoji) might look like they are operated independently, but they are not. From the start, both temples were built with advice from, and then cared for by, the preachers from a temple called Shokokuji. And Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji are still part of this temple. Shokokuji was also built by an order from Yoshimitsu Ashiakaga. Although it is not as popular as Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji, Shokokuji Temple is just as important and prestigious. When it comes to seeing Shokokuji, read shokokuji temple.
As explained above, Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji are related to each other, although they were built by different generals at different times. Nevertheless, they are part of the same temple. Ginkakuji may not be as gorgeous as Kinkakuji, but the history behind this building is worth noting, and as a whole temple, Ginkakuji is very attractive, thus worth visiting.
Or if you rather want to read the guidebook on your Kindle e-book reader or application, then get our Kyoto e-Guidebook on Amazon instead.