We are all familiar with gates … house gates, station gates, security gates etc. Kyoto’s Sanmon Gate is altogether different. In fact, it is a gateless entry to the most sacred part of the Nanzen-ji Temple, which has been at the core of Japanese Zen history since 1386.
The Sanmon Gate is an impressive wooden structure constructed in 1626 and supported by massive wooden pillars that dwarf those passing through its five bays. One cannot help but feel humbled by such scale and reminded of the opportunity afforded pilgrims to free themselves from the three passions of greed, hatred and foolishness.
As will be seen from the photographs, the Sanmon Gate also serves as a meeting place and a place for reflection, particularly during the cherry blossom season when it becomes a popular platform for hanami (cherry blossom viewing).
Readers who enjoyed the movie Lost in Translation may also recognise the location from the scene where the Scarlett Johansson character (Charlotte) is entranced by witnessing a Shinto wedding group during a day trip to Kyoto. I’ve only ever seen Shinto weddings at shrines rather than temples, but Hollywood is Hollywood and I still enjoyed the movie.
(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)