Japan Kyoto Northern Higashiyama

Nanzenji Temple Sanmon Gate

Nanzenji Temple’s Sanmon Gate, an Icon of Japanese Zen Buddhism

Photo of Nanzenji Temple Sanmon Gate, Japan (The

Nanzenji Temple’s Sanmon Gate, also known as “The Dragon Gate under Heaven,” is a cultural icon in Kyoto and a gateway to Japan’s Zen Buddhist heritage. Standing at 22 meters tall, it offers magnificent views of Kyoto and serves as a monument to samurai history.

About Nanzenji Temple Sanmon Gate

The Sanmon Gate at Nanzenji Temple, officially an Important Cultural Property, is the majestic entrance to a site of great religious importance. The temple, also referred to by its mountain name Zuiryūzan, belongs to the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. Established by Emperor Kameyama, it was later opened by Zen master Mukan Fumon, known as Daime Kokushi. The temple venerates Gautama Buddha and is highly regarded within the Japanese Zen community, though its exact historical ranking is uncertain.

Built by feudal lord Todo Takatora to commemorate those who fell during the Siege of Osaka, the Sanmon Gate has been a beacon of history, including undergoing reconstruction after a fire. Although the original construction date is often cited as 1628, this should be considered in light of the earlier fire. The gate is architecturally significant, resembling other important temple gates such as the Chionin Temple Sanmon Gate and Kodaiji Temple Sanmon Gate, with its two-story, two-layered romemon roof and irimoya-zukuri style.

The “Go-hou-ro” upper level houses statues of the Buddha and his disciples, and the mortuary tablets of the Todo family and the soldiers honored by the gate. Renowned painter Kano Tanyu decorated the roof with images of apsaras and phoenixes, contributing to its artistic heritage.

The Sanmon Gate’s cultural significance is reflected in its mention in the kabuki play “Sanmon Gosan no Kiri,” capturing the awe of the view from its top level. Visitors are encouraged to climb to the Go-hou-ro to fully engage with the gate’s history and enjoy the same scenic vistas that inspired Ishikawa Goemon’s famous exclamation.

The Nanzenji Sanmon Gate stands as a distinguished piece of Japan’s cultural and spiritual history, attracting those interested in the nation’s Zen Buddhist traditions and historical narratives.

Getting There the easiest way to reach Nanzenji Temple Sanmon Gate

T 09

 Kyoto Tozai Line

 10-20 minute walk (1.0km)
KH 40

 Keihan Main Line

 20-30 minute walk (2.3km)

Around Nanzenji Temple Sanmon Gate

Nanzenji Temple Sanmon Gate

Gate in Kyoto


三門, 京都

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Updated 14 Mar 2024 • Report an error

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