Kuro-shoin is the second of two reception halls in Goten. Kuro-shoin was used as the more formal of the two. The formalities of the two rooms may be switched, but buildings with the names “shiro-shoin” and “kuro-shoin” are common in courtly architecture and can be found at other temples and palaces as well.

The “shiro” (“white” in Japanese) in Shiro-shoin once referred to the emphasis on unpainted woodwork in the interior of the rooms while the “kuro” (“black”) in Kuro-shoin referred to the use of black lacquer in the rooms. You’ll notice at Ninna-ji there is actually little difference in the woodwork of the two rooms now, but at one time this was a difference that set the two buildings apart and resulted in their names.

Like several of the buildings in Goten, the present-day Kuro-shoin is a reconstruction. The current building was once the residential quarters at a Shingon temple named Yasui Monzeki, a temple that no longer exists today. The building was moved to Ninna-ji and reconstructed with a few structural changes. The reconstruction was completed in 1909. The paintings in the rooms of Kuro-shion were completed in 1937 by Domoto Inshō.