Gates to Heian-kyo

Question raised by: Karl Friday

Discussants: Andrew Goble, Matthew Stavros, Bill Higginson, Barbara Nostrand, David Pollack

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Date: Tue, 13 Nov 2001 17:55:03 -0500
From: Karl Friday
Subject: Gates to Heian-kyo

An acquaintance working on a novel recently asked me about the following:

Would the Tokaido leave from the Rasho gate or at the (I think it would be) Sanjo gate? I know the Rashomon is the "official" gate, where foreign deputations would arrive, so that they could get the full effect of the main road and the Vermilion Sparrow gate. But it looks as though the gate which links directly to the Tokaido is on the east side of Heian. Another possibility is that the Tokaido snaked around to the south of the capital and entered at the Rashomon; but that almost everyone entered at the east via an unofficial but universally used shortcut.

Can anyone help her out?


Date: Tue, 13 Nov 2001 16:22:15 -0800
From: Andrew Goble

Until Tokugawa the Tokaido came into the capital close to Kiyomizu. In Tokugawa the entrance was changed to route people from Yamashina, through the now-Keage, and coming out on Sanjo.

I imagine that Tokaido or whatever preceded it as a road didn't even go to Rashomon (likewise for any roads and "entrances" to north and west).

Hope this helps.

Andrew Goble

Date: Tue, 13 Nov 2001 19:27:49 -0500
From: Matthew Stavros

It is questionable as to whether the Rasho gate (properly: "Rajo")was actually ever completed. The Chitei-ki (circa 982) makes only passing reference to it, and even then does so only to define where it was (past tense) that the great Suzaku road ended in the south.The Rajo gate, or the Rajo itself (mound of earth that is said to have surrounded the capital) is not mentioned even once in the entire Heian-ibun.

Recent excavations have uncovered the remains of embedded oxcart tracks at the location where the Rajo gate was suspected to have stood but that does not necessarily prove a gate existed there.

My sense is that a Rajo gate was in fact completed, however, due to the factthat the southern entrance of the capital was hardly ever used, it quickly fell into disrepair and soon disappeared.

Concerning the Tokaido, this ended (or rather, began) at what was then and still is called Awataguchi. Awataguchi was a barrier site standing east of the capital along what is now Sanjo avenue; very close to where the Miyako Hotel stands today. This was one of the capital's imaginary "nanakuchi" (or, seven mouths). (Imaginary in that there were in fact more entrances to the capital then seven). Keep in mind that those who approached the capital from the east alongthe Tokaido, once passing through the Awatakuchi barrier (sekisho),would have been unable to cross the Kamo river at Sanjo. A permanent bridge did not span the Kamo river until Hideyoshi's time. Travelers would have had to cross at either the Shijo bridge, or, I believe, the Nijo bridge. Shijo was by far the most common, enabling travelers to pay a visit to the Gion shrine (Yasaka) on their way.

Concerning whether "foreign deputations" would have entered in thesouth or the east, I'm afraid I have no concrete basis for forming a thesis. We might consider investigating where, exactly, such embassies landed in Japan. Was it Shimanoseki, or rather, the Sakai area in the Inland sea? Or perhaps the Kobama bay area? The answer to this question might lead us in the right direction. I would guess however, that there was no special importance placed on passing through the Rajo gate itself due to the fact that, as I have suggested, it was probably out of commission by as early as the firstdecade of the 9th century. By that time, the entire southern and western portions of the capital's urban landscape had fallen into disuse as people gravitated toward the higher and cooler north and east.

For more information on this topic, see a great book by my mentor, TakahashiYasuo, Zushu Nihontoshi-shi. UNESCO will be coming out with a book on Kyoto's urban history soon too. This should be rather informative (at least I hope it is).

Matthew Stavros

Date: Tue, 13 Nov 2001 17:34:37 -0700
From: Bill Higginson

If Hiroshige's Tokugawa-Era prints are any indication, #55, last of the Tokaido series, depicts the "Great Sanjo Bridge" over the Kamo River. Others probably know the Heian-Era geography much better than I.

Bill Higginson

Date: Tue, 13 Nov 2001 22:28:06 -0500
From: Barbara Nostrand

Wouldn't directional "taboos" have played a significant role in gate traffic during the Heian period? Even with the population center shifting during the Heian period, these might still take precedence over economy of movement.

Date: Tue, 13 Nov 2001 23:25:21 -0500
From: Matthew Stavros

As we see in Makura no shoshi (Susamajiki mono), taboos may indeed have beena factor in movement in and around the capital as late as the 11th century. However, didn't the taboos change daily? If we are makingbroad statement about which gates were used more frequently, I wonder how useful consideration of the taboo-factor might be.

Also, let me clarify. I don't think there were any gates to speak of around Heian-kyo besides the short-lived Rajo. Sekisho were not necessarily "gates" in any architectural sense.

Matthew Stavros

Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2001 09:07:52 -0500
From: David Pollack

Two matters here, 'taboos' and 'gates':

The impression I have always had of taboo (imi) in Heiankyo is that it was a system of enough complexity that it required the professional skills of a priestly class for its proper application. Courtiers however were sufficiently well versed in the generalities of such matters that they were able to manipulate them for their own purposes. In Genji, for example, imi often seems to be used as an excuse for not having to go where one doesn't want to go (home), and instead for going where one does want to go (elsewhere). in other words, it functioned as a socially acceptable system of 'reasons' for one's own desired actions (or inaction), rather than as hard-and-fast requirements independent of interpretation -- though money could always buy the right interpretation. I gather that death taboos were somewhat less flexible in their application.

As for the idea of the rashomon as a main entrance, Murai Yasuhiko (Heian to Kyotoo, 1990), besides noting its immediate decline also notes that there was a "Chinese bridge" (karahashi) that spanned the 'moat' south of the rashomon . However, another karahashi is found at the rather unlikely location of Kujoukamogawa-jiri, a swampy area bordering the Kamogawa at Kujo and the location of Fujiwara Mototsune's Horikawa-dono mansion. (The Sandai jitsuroku records two items relating to it: burned 9.25.879, two supervisors appointed 5.14.887). Since there were no bridges across the Kamogawa in the early Heian, says Murai, it couldn't have spanned the river, but instead extended from the end of Kujou-boumon-jiri to the river. It was at this place, Murai says, that boat traffic on the river arrived from and left for the south. Asking why such a "bridge" should have been erected at such an unlikely location, Murai conjectures that, due its common use as a landing-place, this area had in fact become the real "front entrance" (omote-genkan) of Heiankyo a major reason for the rashomon's having so quickly fallen into disuse. With the city's southeast corner early on replacing the central gate, he claims, the name "karahashi" that had been attached to the rashomon came to be used there as well. It was the importance of the area that is the reason for a Fujiwara regent building a mansion there, in an area so remote from all the others.

David Pollack

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