Gates

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
Nijo Castle Edo Castle Kochi Castle Kanazawa Castle
Other Yagura gates
Tsuchiura Castle Kochi Castle Hirosaki Castle Hirosaki Castle

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.

Mito Castle Ashikagashi Yakata Ashikagashi Yakata Kakunodate Castle Kofu Castle

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 gate
Nagoya Castle Nagoya Castle
Newer style koraimon gates
Edo Castle Edo Castle Matsumoto Castle Matsumoto Castle Himeji Castle

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.

Himeji Castle Himeji Castle

Tonashimon (戸無門)

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.

Iyo Matsuyama Castle

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.

Ikeda Castle

Heijuumon (塀重門)

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

Nijo Castle

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 in the samurai districts or around storehouses.

Hikone Castle Nijo Castle

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.

Nijo Castle Nijo Castle Najima Castle

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.

Nagoya Castle Odawara Castle Himeji Castle Matsushiro Castle

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.

Edo Castle Matsumoto Castle Kofu Castle Sunpu Castle