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Title: Nijūmon  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Buddhist temples in Japan, Niōmon, Sōmon, Moya (architecture), Ōbaku Zen architecture
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


A nijūmon (the sanmon of Tōfuku-ji, a National Treasure)

The nijūmon (二重門, lit. two story gate) is one of two types of two-story gate presently used in Japan (the other one being the rōmon, see photo in the gallery below), and can be found at most Japanese Buddhist temples.[1] This gate is distinguishable from its relative by the roof above the first floor which skirts the entire upper story, absent in a rōmon.[2] Accordingly, it has a series of brackets (tokyō) supporting the roof's eaves both at the first and at the second story.[group 1] In a rōmon, the brackets support a balcony. The tokyō are usually three-stepped (mitesaki) with tail rafters at the third step.[3][4] A nijūmon is normally covered by a hip-and-gable roof.[2]

Unlike a rōmon, whose second story is inaccessible and unusable, a nijūmon has stairs leading to the second story. Some gates have at their ends two sanrō (山廊), 2 x 1 bay structures housing the stairs.[2] The second story of a nijūmon usually contains statues of Shakyamuni or of goddess Kannon, and of the 16 Rakan, and hosts periodical religious ceremonies.[5] Large nijūmon' are 5 bays wide, 2 bays deep and have three entrances, however Tokyo's Zōjō-ji, the Tokugawa clan's funerary temple, has a gate which is 5 x 3 bays.[2] Smaller ones are 3 x 2 bays and have one, two or even three entrances.[2]

Of all temple gate types, the nujūmon has the highest status, and is accordingly used for important gates like the chūmon (middle gate) of ancient temples as Hōryū-ji.[4] The sanmon, the gate of a Zen temple of highest prestige, is usually a nijūmon.[note 1] Some nijūmon are called chūmon (中門, lit. middle gate) because they are situated between the entrance and the temple.[2]


The second story of a nijūmon

Some interior images of the second story of a nijūmon, in this case Kōmyō-ji's sanmon in Kamakura, Kanagawa prefecture.


  1. ^ The term sanmon originated at Zen temples, but is often used by other sects too, particularly by the Jōdo sect.


  1. ^ Fujita & Koga 2008, pp. 84–85
  2. ^ a b c d e f "nijuumon".  
  3. ^ For details, see the article Tokyō.
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ Iwanami Nihonshi Jiten


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