Friday, March 22, 2013

It is not clear exactly when buildings were made to enshrine kami. It is likely that early shrine buildings were built by the same craftsmen who built temples and that both began to flourish from the seventh and eighth centuries. It is known that wooden-post, pit-dwelling structures were built from about 10,000 years ago. It is also known that some form of ritual was carried out in at least some of these structures from the remains of fertility figurines and other evidence of ritual found in archeological sites. Raised-floor storage structures, along with defensive structures such as lookout platforms and timber walls, were widespread in the Yayoi period. Rice storage structures and the residence of the chieftain appear to be prototypes of the shrine building. But the chief place of worship remained outdoors, especially in relation to waterways that were important for village survival and at the outskirts of villages where evil spirits threatened to enter and cause havoc.
            By the end of the Yayoi period, large earthen tombs called kofun were built and these two became sites of worship. Kofun construction came to an abrupt end at around the time Buddhism appeared and family temples and shrines became important centers of ancestor and deity worship.
            Here I offer another section from the Introduction to "Shinto Shrines" that highlights some of the most common shrine building styles. This excerpt is in two parts.

Building types (part 1)
While there are a number of building types, they fall into two categories. The first is a generic type not necessarily associated with any single shrine. The second is usually named after the shrine where the style originated. The second category may extend to no more than a handful of shrines in the same geographic location.

 Shinmei-zukuri: A type of honden construction associated with the rice storehouse and dating from the Yayoi period. A decorated bronze mirror from the fourth century depicts a similar style of building. It is a structure raised on stilts, with the floor level several feet above ground. It uses round wooden pillars between which boards are laid horizontally to form the walls. The wood is unpainted but copper or gold-plated hardware is used. There is a gabled roof that extends beyond the walls on all four sides. The roof material is rice straw (wara) or long grass like miscanthus (kaya), and it is finished with katsuogi and chigi that form a V above the roofline. The entrance is in the center on the non-gabled side, under the eaves, reached by a steep wooden ladderlike stair. There are no other doors or windows. On the gabled side, one pillar extends from the center of the roof ridge down to the ground, exterior to the wall. The pillars are buried directly in the ground. At some point, the architecture of the storehouse became the model for this style of shrine. The chief example is Ise Jingu in Mie Prefecture. Originally there was no veranda, but many do now have them, including Ise Jingu.

 Taisha-zukuri: A type of honden building that probably derived from the house (miya) of the village headman, who was responsible for performing rites for the kami. The basic style is considered one of the oldest building types. Wooden boards used for the walls sometimes run vertically, rather than horizontally as in the shinmei and sumiyoshi styles. It has a symmetrical gable roof with the gable on the front. The building is two-bays wide with the entrance in the front-right bay. The left bay has shitomido doors that are split horizontally with the upper half hinged at the top and opening upward, while the bottom half is removable. A veranda encircles the building, and stairs as wide as the entrance lead to ground level. Another characteristic of the style is the gabled roof over the stairs, which follows its steep angle. The chief example of the style is Izumo Taisha in Shimane Prefecture.

 Nagare-zukuri: This is probably the most common style of honden construction, found all around the country. The name means “flowing style,” and it is characterized by an asymmetric, upward-curving, gabled roof. The “flowing” roofline gives the style its name. The entrance is always in the center of the non-gabled side, and the roof there extends well past the wall to cover the veranda. It creates a full-width portico, sometimes with additional square pillars going from ground level up to the extended roof to support it along the eave (especially where the center section has been further extended to cover the stairs). A veranda wraps around three sides. A variation called ryonagare-zukuri has an extended roof on both front and back sides.

 Irimoya-zukuri: This is a general description of a building style that uses a hip-and-gable roof. The simple gable roof (called kirizuma-zukuri) forms an inverted V shape seen from the end. The surface may be flat, slightly concave, or convex. The hip-and-gable adds a lower, pent roof to the gable side, forming an A shape seen from the end. The full hip roof style (yosemune-zukuri) has four sloping rooflines, meeting at the top at a very short ridgepole. It creates a more or less symmetrical profile and a roof that looks very large compared with the building. The full hip style is more common in temple construction. The hip-and-gable style is common for shrines.

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