This is the first in a series of posts describing the many varieties of Japanese gate, or mon (門). if you look at the preceding kanji more closely, you can think of it as a picture of a pair of swinging doors, reminiscent of saloon doors in a wild west movie. There are many varieties of Japanese gate, ranging from simple to ornate, and I don’t think there is much awareness in the west of this fact. This series hopes to fill in the picture a bit, to be a gateway to gates.
One of the simplest forms of gate one can imagine is a simple interruption in a fence, where a pair of large posts bolster the ends of the fence and support a pair of hinged doors:
Also termed kabe-jū-mon (壁中門). This structure is literally the gate (門) in the middle of (中) the fence (塀) or wall (壁). These gates appeared around the end of the 12th century. They are typically set within a fence which is attached to a main building in a compound.
In contrast to the example above, the gate is often constructed as an opening in a timber-framed, earthen wall fence, rather than a boarded one.
Here are a few more examples of heijūmon:
You will notice that the gate has either no sill, or a sill flush with the ground to permit the easy passage of horses or vehicles. The gates always open inward from the center – except where they are absent altogether as in the following example:
Usually these gates have doors, however they were often used on aristocratic residences behind the main gate, so that may explain the absence of doors in some cases.
Notice that the gate doors have panels decorated with a pairs of diagonal cross-pieces, termed tasuki (襷):
A closer look at the typical form of doors in this kind of gate; notice the stone-to-wood splices at the base of the main pillars:
The tops of the posts are often finished in a low pyramidal shape, termed tokin-gata:
In the English language the technical name for that shape would be ‘quaquaversal’. My spell check is not liking that one!
You will often see such post tops wrapped with a copper cap or having a small board roof attached.
On to post 2