Japanese Gate Typology (13)

This is a series of posts describing the many varieties of Japanese gate, or mon (). 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:

  1. Heijūmon 
  2. Kabukimon 
  3. Kōraimon 
  4. Yakuimon 
  5. Yotsu-ashimon 
  6. Munamon 
  7. Commentary
  8. Uzumimon 
  9. Yaguramon 
  10. Rōmon
  11. Shōrōmon
  12. Taikomon


Nijūmon (二重門).

At last we come to a proper two-story (二重) gate (門). This form of gate is classified as having two stories because each floor has its own roof. Unlike a rōmon, which has an inaccessible and unused second floor, in a nijūmon there is a flight of stairs or ladder going to the second floor. Nijūmon are often the main, and most important, gate at a temple. The second floor of these gates typically houses religious statues and is a place where periodic religious ceremonies are held. The nijūmon is a general gate type, a category header if you will, and there are a few other gates which get special names that are still, by virtue of the two roofs, are nijūmon.

A nijūmon at Sai-enji (西円寺):


As you can see, this gate is structurally very similar to the previously seen eight-legged gate version of rōmon which were looked at a few posts back, the primary difference being the added roof and the usable second story. It can be said as well that nijūmon are typically larger in size than rōmon, going up to 5×2 or even 5×3 bays. There are examples of this gate type in China going up to 9×5 bays.

Here’s an example of a larger nijūmon, at Chi-on-in (知恩院):


Most nijūmon have hipped gable roofs, termed irimoya.

As noted, the nijūmon serves as a category header – most gates which are nijūmon in fact often go by another name, and the reason for the name change relates to the location of the gate within a temple compound (whether it is a main gate, and intermediate gate, or otherwise), or whether it contains religious statues at the ground level or not, etc. In the next post or three we’ll look at examples of those other gates which are found within the category called ‘nijūmon‘.

Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way. On to post 14

One Reply to “Japanese Gate Typology (13)”

  1. Well after Chris has passed and I’ve already read everything in the blog, I find myself coming back to reread. His writing remains one of the most easily referenced internet sources on Japanese woodcraft and construction. I am still in such admiration for the scope of his knowledge and his humility in presentation.

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