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Three centuries before Michelangelo! The largest gate in Japan protected by real colossi

A temple gate of a grand scale suitable for the Great Buddha Hall (Daibutsu-den)

The Great South Gate (Nandai-mon), the main gate of Todaiji Temple, is the largest wooden temple gate in Japan. The current gate and the two guardian deities housed within, the Two Ni-o, date back to the Kamakura period. The eighteen giant pillars that support the roof measure twenty-one meters and the entire structure rises 25.46 meters above the stone plinth on which it rests. The gate is of a grand scale suitable for the Great Buddha Hall (Daibutsu-den) found within.

No ceiling allows you to appreciate a structure of elaborate and unique architectural beauty

Be sure to look up when you enter the gate. The gate is an example of the extremely unique Daibutsu style of architecture. The soaring pillars are continuously intersected by horizontal crossbeams, creating an elaborate architectural pattern of dazzling beauty without any ceiling to interfere with the view. The eaves that support the building are also stunning works of craftsmanship, creating a powerful feeling of grandeur from all four directions.

Kongo Rikishi – Realistic expressions of muscular guardians with imposing visages

The right and left Kongo Rikishi serve as imposing, monumental guardians for the inner temple. They guard the passageway staring at each other with eyes fiercely open in a striking gaze. The realistic Herculean musculature and pattern of veins of the two deities were sculpted by a number of artisan sculptors of Kei school, such as Unkei and Kaikei, the genius sculptors of the Kamakura period also known as the “Michelangelos of the Orient.” The Kongo Rikishi were carved three centuries before Michelangelo sculpted his famous “David.”

The statues stand approximately 8 meters tall. Each statue is composed of approximately 3,000 pieces of wood, and was built in just 69 days along with the construction of the gate.


Todaiji Nandaimon
406-1 Zoshi-cho, Nara-shi, Nara Pref

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