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Gates / 門

This is a subtype of Features

There are many different types of gates, but the basic construction is the same for all. Two columns (kagamibashira) that hold the gate doors are connected by a crossbeam (kabuki) across the top. Usually, the columns are joined to support pillars (hikaebashira) behind them to help prevent the gate from being pushed over backwards. The rest of the gate construction is developed from the gate's position, function and defensive needs.

Gates were often strategically positioned in the walls of each bailey so that anyone who attempts to enter the castle must zig zag back and forth to reach the inner grounds and the main keep. Gates were often further fortified by bolting metal plates over them for strength.

Yaguramon (櫓門)

A gate with a yagura situated on top. These are often large, strong and impressive looking gates. They are frequently used as the inner gate of a masugata and for other important entrance points. Yaguramon were were a safe place to observe the outside and they could be used as defensive platforms with defenders in the top. They were equipped with loopholes and windows to shoot from and the floor in front of the gate could be opened like a rock chute to attack anyone at the doors below. There are 2 types of yaguramon. Watariyagura style uses a watariyagura to span from one stone wall across the gate to another stone wall. The other style is basically a free standing yagura with a gate built into the first floor.

Watariyagura Style

Nijo5.jpg Edo7.jpg Marugame5.jpg Matsuyama27.jpg

Free Standing Yagura Gates

Kochi8.jpg Hirosaki6.jpg Hirosaki12.jpg Tsuchiura8.jpg

Yakuimon (薬医門)

A gate where one roof covers both the main front pillars (kagamibashira) and the rear support pillars (hikaebashira). The roof was necessarily large to cover all four pillars. This is an older style gate that was eventually replaced by Koraimon gates (see below), because it was impractical for defense. The large roof blocked the defenders vision of the outside and it actually shielded any attackers at the doors. There are very few extant examples of yakuimon gates at castles today. The second picture below is an inside view of the gate in the first picture so that you can get a better view of the structure of Yakuimon gates compared to Koraimon gates. The picture from Kakunodate Castle shows a smaller yakuimon in front of a samurai home.

Mito11.jpg Ashikaga7.jpg Kofu10.jpg Marugame63.jpg Obatajinya8.jpg

Koraimon (高麗門)

The front pillars and doors are covered with one small roof and the rear support pillars and support beams are each covered by a separate roof on either side at right angles to the main roof over the front pillars. This type of gate is often used as the outer gate of a masugata. There are two types of Koraimon. The roof of the older style is nearly even with the surrounding walls, while the newer style gate is taller so the roof is up higher than the surrounding walls.

Older Style Koraimon

Nagoya13.jpg Nagoya14.jpg

Newer Style Koraimon

Edo13.jpg Edo76.jpg Matsumoto9.jpg Matsumoto10.jpg Himeji29.jpg

Munamon (棟門€)

Munamon is a gate with two main pillars covered by a roof. It is similar to the koraimon, but lacks the extra support pillars in the rear making it relatively unstable. It is often wedged in between stone or earthen walls to gain extra support.

Himeji28.jpg Bitchu11.jpg

Tonashimon (戸無し門)

As the name implies, tonashimon is literally a gate with no doors. The only extant gate of this type that I know of is at Iyo Matsuyama Castle. It is basically a koriamon gate with no doors. It is said that this gate was built here atop a long slope at the front of a hairpin curve to trick attackers into thinking it would be an easy way into the castle. Once they pass through the gate and around the curve they are actually met with a large heavily fortified gate.


Kabukimon (冠木門)

This is a gate with only the two front vertical pillars and the one horizontal cross beam. It has doors but no roof. This gate is a formality only and has little or no defensive value.

Ikeda3.jpg Nanbata6.jpg Kakegawa4.jpg

Heijuumon (塀重門)

A heijuumon gate takes the kabukimon a step further and eliminates the cross beam between the two front pillars.


Nagayamon (長屋門)

This is where a gate is passed through a section of a long warehouse. Rooms were easily built on either side of the gate and it was often used as a guardhouse around samurai homes.

Yonago18.jpg Nijo15.jpg Iwamura7.jpg

Karamon (唐門)

An ornate gate with a karahafu style roof. A karahafu is a gable chracterized by the rounded ridge in the center. There are several surviving karamon that were moved from castles to temples, but the only one that I know of that is at a castle is the famous gate from Nijo Castle.

Nijo2.jpg Nijo3.jpg Ichijodani3.jpg

Uzumimon (埋門€)

Uzumimon literally means buried gate. There are two types of uzumimon. In one type, a hole is literally cut through the middle of a completed stone wall. In the second type, when the stone walls are constructed a narrow gap is left for a gate. Then the defensive wall atop the stone wall foundation is run across the gate evenly with the rest. An uzumimon was often used as an emergency exit or as a rear entrance to the castle.

Nagoya15.jpg Odawara4.jpg Himeji14.jpg Matsushiro12.jpg

Masugata (枡形)

A masugata is a compound gate made up of 2 gates, most commonly a koraimon on the outside and a yaguramon on the inside. The 2 gates are placed at right angles and joined by walls to create a square enclosure. Any enemy who attempts to enter the castle will be trapped in the box while it tries to breach the strong inner gate. The trapped enemy is then vulnerable to attack from the defenders inside the castle, and lining the walls above.

Edo84.jpg Matsumoto10.jpg Kofu14.jpg Sunpu5.jpg

Castles with Gates

  1. Aizu Wakamatsu Castle
  2. Akashi Castle
  3. Akita Castle
  4. Akizuki Castle
  5. Ako Castle
  6. Amagajo
  7. Aoyagi Castle
  8. Ashikagashi Yakata
  9. Asuke Castle
  10. Bitchu Matsuyama Castle
  11. Echizen Katsuyama Castle
  12. Echizen Ohno Castle
  13. Edo Castle
  14. Fukuchiyama Castle
  15. Fukuyama Castle
  16. Funai Castle
  17. Funaoka Castle
  18. Fushimi Castle
  19. Gujo Hachiman Castle
  20. Hachigata Castle
  21. Hachinohe Castle
  22. Hagi Castle
  23. Hamada Castle
  24. Hamamatsu Castle
  25. Hanamaki Castle
  26. Hekirichi Jinya
  27. Hikone Castle
  28. Himeji Castle
  29. Hirado Castle
  30. Hirosaki Castle
  31. Hiroshima Castle
  32. Hitoyoshi Castle
  33. Hotta no Saku
  34. Ibaraki Castle
  35. Ichijodani Castle
  36. Iga Ueno Castle
  37. Ikeda Castle
  38. Imabari Castle
  39. Inatsuke Castle
  40. Innoshima Suigun castle
  41. Inuyama Castle
  42. Iwamura Castle
  43. Iwatsuki Castle
  44. Iyo Matsuyama Castle
  45. Izu Nagahama Castle
  46. Izumi Jin'ya
  47. Izushi Castle
  48. Kakegawa Castle
  49. Kameda Castle
  50. Kaminoyama Castle
  51. Kamioka Castle
  52. Kanazawa Castle
  53. Kasama Castle
  54. Kawanoe Castle
  55. Kinojo
  56. Kishiwada Castle
  57. Kiyosu Castle
  58. Kochi Castle
  59. Kofu Castle
  60. Komoro Castle
  61. Kubota Castle
  62. Kumamoto Castle
  63. Kushima Castle
  64. Marugame Castle
  65. Matsue Castle
  66. Matsumae Castle
  67. Matsumoto Castle
  68. Matsushiro Castle
  69. Mibu Castle
  1. Minakuchi Castle
  2. Minokubi Castle
  3. Mito Castle
  4. Nagahama Castle
  5. Nagoya Castle
  6. Nanbata Castle
  7. Natsukawa Castle
  8. Ne Castle
  9. Nijo Castle
  10. Nishio Castle
  11. Nobeoka Castle
  12. Obata Jin'ya
  13. Obi Castle
  14. Odawara Castle
  15. Ogaki Castle
  16. Oka Castle
  17. Okayama Castle
  18. Osaka Castle
  19. Oshi Castle
  20. Otaki Castle
  21. Owari Ohno Castle
  22. Ozu Castle
  23. Saga Castle
  24. Sakasai Castle
  25. Sannohe Castle
  26. Sekiyado Castle
  27. Shibata Castle
  28. Shichinohe Castle
  29. Shirakawa Castle
  30. Shiroishi Castle
  31. Shishido Jin'ya
  32. Shiwa Castle
  33. Shuri Castle
  34. Soma Nakamura Castle
  35. Sonobe Castle
  36. Sunpu Castle
  37. Suwahara Castle
  38. Tahara Castle
  39. Takamatsu Castle
  40. Takane Castle
  41. Takasaki Castle
  42. Takashima Castle
  43. Takato Castle
  44. Takatsuki Castle
  45. Takenaka Jinya
  46. Tamaru Castle
  47. Tanabe Castle
  48. Tanaka Castle
  49. Tatebayashi Castle
  50. Tatsuno Castle
  51. Tatsuoka Castle
  52. Tojo Castle
  53. Tokushima Castle
  54. Tomioka Castle
  55. Torigoe Castle
  56. Tottori Castle
  57. Toyama Castle
  58. Toyooka Jinya
  59. Tsu Castle
  60. Tsuchiura Castle
  61. Ueda Castle
  62. Usuki Castle
  63. Uwajima Castle
  64. Wakayama Castle
  65. Yamagata Castle
  66. Yamato Koriyama Castle
  67. Yuzawa Castle
  68. Yuzuki Castle
  69. Zeze Castle

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