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:
- Torii (Part I)
- Torii (Part II)
Torii (Part III)
Now we can turn to some examples of more unusual forms of torii. Many of these can be squeezed into the preceding categories of having either straight horizontal members (shinmei type) or have some curved horizontal members (myōjin type), while others are in a category all of their own.
Torii-mon (鳥居門). Torii can be normally described as being a gate without doors, however there is a rare type which does have doors. It conforms otherwise to the miwa-torii pattern described in the preceding post in this series. The gates are only opened on special occasions, once-a-year typically. Here’s an example, Hibara Jinja 檜原神社 in Nara:
Hakozaki torii (筥崎鳥居). This is a gate with the members are made of stone and have quite unusual proportions. The ends of the horizontal members only project a short distance beyond the thick posts, and a central strut (gakuzuka) is present. Named after the shrine where they appear, Hakozaki Shrine in Fukuoka:
Another one from the same site:
Usa-torii (宇佐鳥居). Of the myōjin type otherwise – however has an unusually exaggerated upward sweep to the kasagi–shimaki assembly of uppermost lintels. Takes its name from the Usa Jingu (宇佐神宮) in Ōita Prefecture:
Mitsu-bashira torii (三柱鳥居). As the name implies, this is a torii with three (三) posts (柱), not two. Also called a mihashira torii, which is simply a different reading of the same characters. The form is that of the myōjin type, however there are three of everything. Not a common gate form, and most seem to be located in and around Kyoto. This one is from Mimeguri Jinja (三囲神社):
Another from Konoshima Jinja (木嶋神社) in Kyoto:
The origin of the three posted form remains a bit murky, however there is some possibility that it associates to Nestorianism, an ancient Christian sect, in which case the three posts are supposedly symbolic of the Holy Trinity.
Momo-gata torii (桃形鳥居). A torii in the shape of a peach. Occurs at a shrine, Momotaro Jinja (桃太郎神社) dedicated to the Japanese folklore tale of Momotaro, the boy who emerged from a peach pit, located in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture:
A style of gate which is ever so slightly in the ‘Disneyland’ genre.
Harai-mon (祓門). A gate of purification. This unusual gate, composed of a pieced slab of stone, is located at Ogi-kubo-Hachiman Jinja (荻窪八幡神社) in Tokyo:
Last, there is a shrine in Tokyo’s Minato Ward called Karasumori Jinja (烏森神社) which has an unusual pair of torii – I haven’t been able to determine if the torii have a special name or not. The first, is made of wood:
The second is of stone or concrete:
That wraps up the series folks – I hope it has proven informative. Thanks for your visit!
6 Replies to “Japanese Gate Typology (33)”
Thank you so much for an absolutely fascinating series of posts. You have obviously put a huge amount of effort into the research, writing and illustration. It is much appreciated.
very kind of you. It was in interesting topic to research and I was surprised in the end how many posts it took to cover it adequately.
Very nice Chris enjoyed it thanks
most kind of you – thanks for your comment!
Chris – thanks for the quick education and wonderful pictures!
you're most welcome. Thanks for the feedback.