Gojunoto (Five-storey pagoda) (五重塔)

The Gojunoto is one of the styles of Buddhist pagodas. Buddhist pagodas, of many types, in the Rokaku (pavilion) style called 'Soto' with five roofs are called 'Gojunoto' (five-storey pagoda).

Summary

The Buddhist pagoda has its roots in the stupa that was made to worship Busshari (Buddha's relics) in ancient India in the third century B.C. A stupa in ancient India was a hemispherical mound, and its style spread to China to become multi-storey architecture taking on the style of Rokaku. This Rokaku-style Soto was introduced to Japan via Korean Peninsula. Many of wooden Soto remain in Japan, with a few in China and Korean Peninsula.

Local Buddhist temples and shrines have wooden Gojunoto and Sanjunoto (three-storey pagoda) in Japan, many of which are landmarks of their regions. Other than wood, they are also made of stone, tiles, and iron, and in the modern days there are ferroconcrete pagodas. Although multi-storey pagoda architecture also include Nanajunoto (Seven-storey pagoda), Kujunoto (Nine-storey pagoda), and Jusanjunoto (Thirteen-storey pagoda) (mostly limited to odd numbers), wooden Nanajunoto or Kujunoto do not exit. Tanzan-jinja Shrine in Nara Prefecture has a wooden Jusanjunoto, but it is not in the Rokaku style, because its eaves of the second to the thirteenth roof are close together leaving little space between them. An antenna-like part on the rooftop is called 'Sorin' (a metal pinnacle).

Compared to many Chinese Soto whose top storey one can climb up to, Japanese wooden Gojunoto do not allow one to climb, because they are not precisely five-storey in a modern sense, but they have complicated timberworks inside supporting the eaves (some are equipped with a ladder inside). Today, some of them are constructed with no religious purposes, and their miniature models are sold.

The multi-storey architecture was aimed at letting ordinary people who were not allowed to enter the precincts, worship from a distance.

Major Gojunoto
National Treasures

Mt. Haguro (Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture): the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (1372); 29.4 m tall

To-ji Temple (Kyoogokoku-ji Temple) (Minami-ku Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture): The Edo period (1644); 54.8 m tall (tallest of them constructed before modern times in Japan)

Daigo-ji Temple (Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture): The Heian period (951); 38.2 m tall; the oldest wooden architecture in Kyoto Prefecture

Kaijusen-ji Temple (Kamo-cho, Soraku-gun, Kyoto Prefecture): The Kamakura period (1214); 17.7 m tall

Horyu-ji Temple (Ikaruga-cho, Ikoma-gun, Nara Prefecture): The Nara period (the late seventh century to the beginning of the eighth century); Horyu-ji Temple is a World Heritage Site; the oldest Gojunoto in Japan

Kofuku-ji Temple (Nara City, Nara Prefecture): The Muromachi period (1426); 50.8 m tall; destroyed by fire five times and rebuilt five times.

Muro-ji Temple (Uda City, Nara Prefecture): The end of the Nara period to the beginning of the Heian period; 16.1 m tall

Myoo-in Temple (Fukuyama City, Hiroshima Prefecture): The period of the Northern and Southern Courts (1348)

Ruriko-ji Temple (Yamaguchi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture): The Muromachi period (1442); 31.2 m

Gango-ji Temple (Nara City, Nara Prefecture): A small Gojunoto; 5.5 m tall; installed indoors from the beginning; designated National Treasure as architecture

Kairyuo-ji Temple (Nara City, Nara Prefecture): A small Gojunoto; 4.0 m tall; installed indoors from the beginning; designated National Treasure as architecture

Important Cultural Properties

Saisho-in Temple (Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture): The Edo period (1667)

Nikko Tosho-gu Shrine (Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture): The Edo period (1818); structure of the central pillar suspending system

Hokekyo-ji Temple (Ichikawa City, Chiba Prefecture): The Edo period (1622); structure of the central pillar suspending system

Former Kanei-ji Temple (Taito-ku Ward, Tokyo Prefecture): The Edo period (1639); 36.4 m tall; inside the premise of Ueno Zoo

Ikegami Honmon-ji Temple (Ikegami, Ota-ku Ward, Tokyo Prefecture): The Edo period (1607); 31.8 m tall; it is said to have been modeled after the Gojunoto of Nikko Tosho-gu Shrine.

Myosen-ji Temple (Sado City, Niigata Prefecture): The Edo period (1825); 24.1 m tall

Kosho-ji Temple (Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture): The Edo period (1808); 30.0 m tall

Myojo-ji Temple (Hakui City, Ishikawa Prefecture): The Edo period (1618)

Taiseki-ji Temple (Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka Prefecture): The Edo period (1749); 34.0 m tall

Hokan-ji temple (Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture): The Muromachi period (1440); 38.8 m tall; commonly called 'Yasaka no To' (the Pagoda of Yasaka)

Ninna-ji Temple (Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture): The Edo period (1644); 37.1 m tall

Itsukushima-jinja Shrine (Hatsukaichi City, Hiroshima Prefecture): The Muromachi period (1407)

Bicchukokubun-ji Temple (Soja City, Okayama Prefecture): The Edo period (1835); 34.3 m tall

Hogon-ji Temple (Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture): The Kamakura period; Gojunoto made of stone

To-ji Temple (Kyoo Gokoku-ji Temple) (Minami-ku Ward of Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture): The Kamakura period (1240); a small Gojunoto

Gojunoto of Modern Times and Today

Seiryu-ji Temple (Aomori City, Aomori Prefecture): Built by Katsushiro OMURO, a shrine architect in 1996; 39.0 m tall

Fukusen-ji Temple (Tono City, Iwate Prefecture): Built by Kyoji KIKUCHI, a shrine architect in 1990; 26.0 m

Kosho-ji Temple (Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture): Built in 2003; wooden structure; 32.0 m tall

Senso-ji Temple (Taito-ku Ward, Tokyo Prefecture): Built in 1973; 53.3 m tall; Toin-zukuri architecture (Gojunoto built on Toin, or a sub-temple building with a cloister in the precincts of a temple); ferroconcrete structure; Gojunoto built in the Edo period was depicted in Ukiyoe (Japanese woodblock prints) and admired as one of 'Edo yon-to' (four towers in Edo), but it was destroyed by the Great Tokyo Air Raids in 1945.

Seidai-ji Temple (Katsuyama City, Fukui Prefecture): Built in 1987; 75.0 m tall; ferroconcrete structure with an elevator

Shitenno-ji Temple (Tennoji-ku Ward, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture): Built in 1959; 39.0 m tall; ferroconcrete structure; the eighth tower, with its first one built in 593

Choraku-ji Temple (Kami-cho, Hyogo Prefecture): Built in 1992; 70.0 m tall; ferroconcrete structure

Enman-ji Temple (Harima-cho, Hyogo Prefecture): Built in 1993; 42.0 m tall; ferroconcrete structure

Hase-dera Temple (Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture): Built in 1954; 21.0 m tall; wooden structure

Zentsu-ji Temple (Zentsuji City, Kagawa Prefecture): Built in 1884; 45.0 m tall; a very tall tower made of wood

Motoyama-ji Temple (Mitoyo City, Kagawa Prefecture): Built in 1913; wooden structure

Shido-ji Temple (Sanuki City, Kagawa Prefecture): Built in 1975; 33.0 m tall; all made of timber of Japanese cypress

Chikurin-ji Temple (Kochi City, Kochi Prefecture): Built in 1980; 31.0 m tall; all made of timber of Japanese cypress; colored, all ancient Japanese style which was originally introduced from China

Rengein Tanjo-ji Temple (Tamana City, Kumamoto Prefecture): Built in 1997; 33.0 m tall; wooden structure

Renowned Remains of Soto

Gango-ji Temple
Toshodai-ji Temple
Tenno-ji Temple

Other Than Japan

Hoju-ji Bessoden (Palsangjeon at Beopjusa Temple): South Korea; rebuilt in 1626; 22 m tall; the oldest and only wooden Gojunoto left in South Korea; National Treasure
Sakyamuni Pagoda of Fogong Temple, or Okenmokuto Pagoda (YingxianMuta in Chinese): Shanxi Province, China; 1056; 67 m tall; its exterior looks five-storey, but it is nine-storey inside; the oldest and the biggest octagonal wooden tower in China

Other
Earthquake resistant towers use the theory of 'flexible structure' which is applied to the designs of super-high-rise buildings not only in Japan but in the world today. However, the secrets of the structure of ancient Japanese Gojunoto and Sanjunoto are not fully mechanically explained yet. The true mechanism of Gojunoto is not revealed yet regarding its earthquake resistance structure in which a central pillar stands independently without contacting other parts of the building, despite experiments on the quake-resistance strength of accurately simulated models are conducted.

A carpenter named Jubei whose life was dedicated to building a Gojunoto, is depicted in a novel "Gojunoto," one of the representative works of 'Rohan KODA,' a novelist of the Meiji period. Gojunoto in the novel is modeled after the Gojunoto of Yanaka Tenno-ji Temple (commonly called Yanaka no Gojunoto). This Gojunoto survived the Great Kanto Earthquake and the Great Tokyo Air Raids, but was destroyed by the incident of arson-double suicide at Yanaka no Gojunoto in July 1957.

In a film starring Bruce LEE, Game of Death was made with a plot that the hero fights a battle with each enemy on each floor of a Gojunoto as he ascends it.

There is a species of plant called Gojunoto (Haworthia Viscosa, Liliaceae family) which is a succulent plant (a plant with fat leaves, such as Aloe).

Although its correct notation is Gojunoto '五重塔' in Chinese characters, brochures of some temples show a notation '五重の塔.'
(Google search results (August 2006): 505 thousand hits for '五重塔,' and 96 thousand hits for '五重の塔')