Japanese Gate Typology (2)

This is the second in 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.


Kabukimon (冠木門)

In the previous post, we looked at what might be the simplest form of gate possible – a pair of posts interrupting a fence, with a pair of hung doors.  such a fence must have the gate door weight carried to a large extent by the connection of the posts to the surrounding fence structure. The next step up from that would be to place a beam across the top of the doors, between the two posts, so as to stabilize the posts from their tendency otherwise to lean inwards. A simple gate with a heavy beam across the top is termed a kabukimon, which means ‘crown’ () ‘wood’ () ‘gate’ (). the word ‘kabuki’ might be otherwise known in English, however that term employs quite different kanji (歌舞伎) and has a totally different meaning (it’s a form of Japanese theater).

Here’s an elevation drawing of a typical kabukimon:

The posts in this form of gate are invariably square or rectangular in section,  and are either embedded directly in the ground or mounted upon stone bases, or nemaki-ishi (根巻石):

Some kabukimon lack gate doors altogether:

You’ll note in the above photo that the kabuki, or top beam, connects to the posts using a through joint and wedges on top. that’s one of two common methods. Here’s another example in that vein:

The other common connection method also employs a pair of wedges securing a through-tenon,  the wedges placed crosswise so as to bear on the vertical face of the post:

Other kabukimon use a more discrete connection:

You’ll also notice the above gate is extensively jacketed in sheet metal – kabukimon have the great disadvantage that all of the framing elements are out in the weather and therefore their lifespan tends to be limited to around 25~30 years. To deal with this problem, many approaches have been tried, usually entailing copper cladding on some or all components is employed, and/or by affixing narrow roof boards to the upper portions of the posts and beam. The most typical solution is copper sheet post capping, and a copper cover along the top surface of the kabuki.

Here’s an example with a combination of metal cladding and small roof coverings:

As you can see in the above photo, and several others on this page, it is common to see supporting posts placed to the rear of the main post, connected by braces. The support posts are termed hikae-bashira (控柱).

Kabukimon date back to the Kamakura period (1185-1333) and were originally associated to use by people of low social rank. That changed later later though, as by the Muromachi period (1393-1568), this type of gate came to be commonly used at warrior’s mansions and even as castle gates. Also, during the Edo period (1615-1868), the use of this type of gate for residences increased.

Let’s look at a couple of size extremes for this form of gate. On the small end of the scale with have this:

 And on the more monumental side, we have this:

Obviously, since the kabuki is a simple beam without any trussing, the spans achievable are limited. I expect the above picture is a metal version, possibly concrete-filled.

Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way.  On to post 3

6 Replies to “Japanese Gate Typology (2)”

  1. the photo of the metal end-grain cap, roof piece on the kabuki, and red fence is very nice. A lot of classic design elements in that image. While that is beautiful, I think my favorite is the gate that is a standing alone (2nd image).

    Nice short posts. Keep them coming please!

  2. I am curious how the small roof coverings are out together. Do you have a clearer picture or illustration? Thank you.


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