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.
The Domoto Inshō Museum (in Japanese and English) is offering free admission all month! The museum is near Ninna-ji, conveniently located 3 stops away by the #59 bus at the Ritsumeikan Daigakumae bus stop. Ninna-ji often has tickets and flyers for the museum’s exhibits available near the temple shop, but this month you can visit the museum free of charge even without one of the tickets pictured to the right. In honor of the public’s efforts to conserve energy at their homes, the museum is encouraging people to gather at the museum to stay cool during the rising temperatures.
Domoto Inshō has a direct connection to Ninna-ji — he is the artist who painted the sliding panels in Kuro-shoin. He completed the paintings in 1937, a year which commemorated the 1,000th birthday of Retired Emperor Uda and the 1,100th birthday of founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kobo Daishi.
I’ll leave you with a few shots of his work in Kuro-shoin and encourage any of my readers in Kyoto during August to take advantage of the free admission and keep cool while enjoying his works on display at the museum!
Recently a survey of the buildings at Ninna-ji has been completed and 7 structures within Goten and 1 outside of Goten are slated to be added to the Japanese Government’s list of Registered Tangible Cultural Properties in the coming months. Buildings to be registered include: the entrance hall, Shinden, Shiro-shoin, Kuro-shoin, Reimeiden, Chokushi Gate, Kōzoku (Imperial Family) Gate, and Reihō-kan.
This pending registration does not involve any changes for visitors to the temple, however. Structures registered as Tangible Cultural Properties are eligible to receive some government assistance for maintenance and repairs. When the pending registration is complete it will be that much easier for the temple to keep its properties in peak condition for visitors for years to come.