This is 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. I thought that it would be a nice idea to bring more awareness to a western audience as to the tremendous diversity in forms and types of Japanese gates. This series intends to be a gateway to gates.
Previous posts in this series:
A cherry tree (楼) gate (門) with the upper story functioning as a bell (鐘) tower. A stand-alone bell tower is termed a shōrō (鐘楼). There are bell towers and bell tower gates.
As with rōmon (see previous post) there are four-legged and eight-legged versions of shōrōmon. Let’s look at a few examples of the four-legged type first.
Another view provides a glimpse of the bell on the second floor:
While the exterior form of these gates is the same as we saw in our previous post looking at rōmon, the one key difference is that the second floor is actually used for something, and thus there is access to the upper floor by way of a ladder or staircase. Alternatively, the cord attached to the shumoku hangs down through the floor structure so that the bell can be rung from ground level.
Another four-legged shōrōmon:
A view from the back reveals the ladder and the bell’s wooden striker, or shumoku (撞木):
One more four-leg version, at Daichūji:
Now for a look at eight-legged shōrōmon, which appear to be the more common type to come across.
This first one has such a narrow base that it is close in form to the four-legged type – in fact it is debatable how many legs one would suggest for labeling purposes:
A more ‘typical’ eight-legged shōrōmon, if one can say there is such a thing:
The above gate was constructed between 1716 and 1735. You will note that although it is called an ‘eight-leg’ gate, in reality there are 12 supporting posts. This is a similar situation to the way four legged gates are labeled, which is on the basis of the count of auxiliary support posts, or hikae-bashira.
Another example, at Kanonji:
As with some stand-alone bell towers, there are shōrōmon, in four- or eight legged variants, which have their lower posts and associated timber work enclosed within a skirt-shaped enclosure, or hakama-goshi. The bell tower gate at Manjuji in Kyoto:
And with a certain sect of Buddhism – I haven’t been able to nail down which one it is at the time of writing with total surety – I think it is Nichiren Buddhism – that hakama-goshi is formed in a curvilinear manner and often painted/plastered white. At Honganji there is an example:
One last example shows the same curvilinear lower skirt enclosure, not painted white this time. Nyorinji in Chiba Prefecture:
A beautiful example of double-curvilinear work, and fan-raftering, or ōgi-daruki.
You’ll find that clicking on any of the above pictures should provide you with some nice wallpaper for your screen. Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way. On to the next post.