Taisha-zukuri style (a term concerning architecture) (大社造)

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


It is considered that the taisha-zukuri style, represented by the Izumo-oyashiro Shrine building, is one of the oldest styles of shrine architecture, together with the shinmei-zukuri style, represented by the Ise-jingu shrine building, and the Sumiyoshi-zukuri style, represented by the Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine building.

In the shinmei-zukuri style buildings have a rectangular shape with its width longer than the depth, and the style is thought to have been developed from takayukashiki-soko (warehouses on stilts) and changed so that the building became more fitted for keeping shinpo (sacred treasures) than storing grain, and the sumiyoshi-zukuri style is close to the style of the building where Daijosai (the first ceremonial offering of rice by newly-enthroned Emperor) is held. Conversely, taisha-zukuri style buildings use the shape of the Chinese character 田, which is square and close to that of traditional Japanese houses, and accordingly it is considered that shrine buildings using this style developed from palaces that had been used for religious services. According to a theory, the reason is because Mount Yakumo behind Izumo-oyashiro Shrine was a shintai (an object of worship that was believed to contain the spirit of a deity).

Nothing is known about the shrine building of Izumo-oyashiro Shrine prior to the Kamakura Period as no records remain. Therefore, it is said that the present shrine building built in 1744 constitutes its basic form.

The honden of Mizuwakasu-jinja Shrine located in Kori, Okinoshima Town, Oki County, Shimane Prefecture, is sometimes classified as a taisha-zukuri style building, yet is sometimes referred to as an Oki-zukuri style building.

The structure

A taisha-zukuri style building uses hottate bashira (earthfast posts), elements of the kirizuma-zukuri style (an architectural style with a gabled roof) and tsuma-iri (the style of building which has the entrance on its shorter side), and has a roof with graceful curved lines. This is the point most different from the shinmei-zukuri style and Sumiyoshi-zukuri style whose external view gives an impression of being straight.

The roof

Thatch had been used for the roof since ancient times, but this changed during the Edo Period, and hiwadabuki (a cypress bark roof) was used for the Izumo-oyashiro Shrine building. When Buddhism was brought to Japan and became widely practiced, temple buildings were called Kawara-yane (tiled roofs). Therefore, the use of tiled roofs in shrine buildings was seen as being wrong.

The hafu (bargeboard) supporting the roof on the side is shaped in a graceful curved line decorated with a gegyo (decorative wooden board used to cover the ridge and purlin ends on a roof gable). It is considered that this was influenced by continental Chinese culture and which has been later modified.

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. Chigi (ornamental crossbeams on the gable of a Shinto shrine) and Katsuogi (ornamental logs arranged perpendicular to the ridge of a Shinto shrine) are used for decorative purposes.

The pillars

From ancient times the pillars were earthfast, and neither base stones nor mud bases were used between the pillars and the surface of the ground. However, at the Izumo-oyashiro Shrine building constructed in 1744, each pillar is placed on a base stone to increase its durability level.

A large core pillar is placed at the center of the shrine building which forms the shape of the Chinese character 田, supporting the taruki (rafters).

The pillar that is placed at the center of each tsuma side, a little outside of the wall, and that reaches the ridge is called the Uzu-bashira pillar. It is thought that an Uzu-bashira pillar is used in order to augment the strength of the large core pillar.

The walls

The boards that are used for making the walls are placed horizontally in the shinmei-zukuri style, and vertically in the taisha-zukuri style. There is a single opening to the right of the center on the tsuma side.

The floors

Sixty tatami mats are laid in the shrine building of the Izumo-oyashiro Shrine built in 1744, but it is not known when they were laid. The floors are considerably raised and a long set of steps is needed as in the shinmei-zukuri style.

History of the taisha-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 taisha-zukuri style buildings, and so it is considered that the taisha-zukuri style developed out of takayukashiki-soko (raised-floor houses).

The height of the Izumo-oyashiro Shrine building, constructed in 1744, is considerably high, at 24 m. The previous shrine building was larger, and it is said that the building collapsed seven times during the 200 years between the middle of the Heian Period and the early Kamakura period. Around the time of the collapse on August 11, 1032, there are no records indicating that an earthquake occurred or that a strong wind blew on that day. Therefore, it is believed the building collapsed under its own weight.

Many shrine buidings in the taisha-zukuri style are found in the Sanin region. However, the taisha-zukuri style was not adopted for some shrine buildings built in or after the Meiji Period, such as Nawa-jinja Shrine.

Of the shrine buildings in the taisha-zukuri style remaining in the 21st century, Kamosu-jinja Shrine located in Oba-cho, Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture in the Sanin region, was built in 1346 in the Muromachi Period and is the oldest. The honden (main hall) of Kamosu-jinja Shrine was designated a national treasure in March 1952, because it is the oldest building constructed based on the ancient original rules of the taisha-zukuri style.