Shinmei-zukuri style (a term concerning architecture) (神明造)

The shinmei-zukuri style is a style of shrine buildings in Japan.


It is said that the shinmei-zukuri style, represented by the Ise-jingu Shrine building, is one of the oldest styles of shrine architecture, together with the taisha-zukuri style, represented by the Izumo-taisha shrine building, and the Sumiyoshi-zukuri style, represented by the Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine building. It is considered that the taisha-zukuri style imitated palaces that had nearly square shapes, and the sumiyoshi-zukuri style is close to the style of the building where the Daijosai (first ceremonial offering of rice by newly-enthroned Emperor) is held. However, it is believed that the shinmei-zukuri style, with its width longer than its depth, developed from takayukashiki-soko (warehouses on stilts) and changed so that the building became more used for keeping shinpo (sacred treasures) than storing grain.

The style of each main hall of the two shrines of Kotai-jingu Shrine and Toyouke Dai-jingu Shrine in Ise has not been used in any other shrines, because of concerns surrounding using the exact same style. Therefore, the style of these halls is called yuiitsu-shinmei-zukuri style (literally, the sole shinmei-zukuri style) in particular.

The structure

The shinmei-zukuri style uses hottate bashira (earthfast posts), has a kirizuma-zukuri style roof (an architectural style with a gabled roof) and hira-iri (the style of buildings which have the entrance on the long side of the buildings). Except the cylindrical pillars and Katsuogi (ornamental logs arranged perpendicular to the ridge of a Shinto shrine), the external view is almost completely made up of straight edges due to its flat construction. This is in contrast to taisha-zukuri style which has graceful curves.

The roof

The roof is limited to thatch in most cases, but can also include shingle roofs and copper roofs. Shingle roofs are used in almost all of the sessha (auxiliary shrines dedicated to a deity connected to that of the main shrine), subordinate shrines and the other minor shrines of Ise-jingu Shrine, and Atsuta-jingu Shrine has a copper roof. When Buddhism was brought to Japan and came to be practiced widely, temple buildings were called Kawara-yane (tiled roofs). For this reason tiled roofs are rarely used in shrine buildings.

Because less endurable thatch or shingles are used for the roof, the angle of the roof is made steep so that rain and snow falls down the roof more easily. It is also necessary to make the eaves longer, because a kirizuma-style roof is used. The top part of the roof is covered with boards, and is reinforced with Katsuogi.

The gables supporting the roof do not terminate where they meet, but protrude, forming chigi.

Decorative metal fittings are sometimes attached to Chigi and Kastsuogi to enhance their resistance to weather.

For Chigi and Kastsuogi, refer to Chigi and Katsuogi.

The pillars

The shinmei-zukuri style building is basically horizontally symmetrical, with an even number of pillars on either side. The pillars are earthfast, and neither base stones nor mud bases are used between the pillars and the surface of the ground.

The pillars at the center of each side, a little outside of the wall, and reaching the ridge are called Munamochi-bashira (literally, ridge-supporting pillar). Strong thick wood is usually used for the Munamochi-bashira, but this pillar actually contributes little to the strength of the building.

A pillar called Shinnomihashira is located at the center of the shrine building, but this pillar contributes little to the strength of the building either.

The walls

Only boards of a sufficient strength are used for the walls of shinmei-zukuri style buildings. There is a single opening with hinged double doors, called Otobira, at the center of the front side. The Otobira is usually cut directly from a tree, and therefore an old tree of considerable size is required for a large-scale shrine building. It is said that a Japanese cypress of 400 years or more would be necessary for the main hall of Kotai-jingu Shrine.

The floors

Shinmei-zukuri buildings have floors raised from the ground, with importance placed on ventilation, and this is considered to be a vestige of the design of takayukashiki-soko (warehouse on stilts). Accordingly, these building usually have a comparatively long set of steps.

History of the shinmei-zukuri style

The history of this architectural style is long, but its exact beginnings are unknown. The layout of pillars in remains from the Yayoi Period is similar to that of the shinmei-zukuri style buildings, and so it is considered that the shinmei-zukuri style developed out of takayukashiki-soko in this period.

In the Edo Period and before, only a few shrines, including the following, were built in the shinmei-zukuri style: Ise-jingu Shrine, Nishina-shinmeigu Shrine, which was under the control of a Shinto priest of Shinano Province (present day Nagano Prefecture), and Kono-jinja Shrine in Tango Province (present day Kyoto Prefecture). However, from the Meiji Period shinmei-zukuri style has been adopted widely for shrine buildings in time of sengu (transfer of a deity to a new shrine building), due to, for example, enshrining multiple gods collectively, thus increasing the number of shinmei-zukuri style shrine buildings. The Atsuta shrine building was built in shinmei-zukuri style for the first time in the sengu in the Meiji Period.