Suzakumon Gate (朱雀門)

Suzakumon Gate was the main gate built on the southern end of Imperial Palaces (called daidairi) in ancient Japanese cities, such as Heijo-kyo (capital of Japan in Nara from 710 to 740 and from 745 to 784) and Heian-kyo (capital of Japan in Kyoto from 794 to 1868) that had grid-patterned city layouts. Out of the twelve palace gates, Suzakumon was the most important.
The gate was also called 'Shujakumon.'


In ancient capitals that were established in accordance with the Chinese grid-patterned city layout, Imperial Palaces, consisting of a palace and a kanga (government office), were placed in the northern central part of the city. The palace was given such names as Heijo-kyu Palace in Heijo-kyo but was generally referred to as daidairi as it was in Heian-kyo. The daidairi had twelve gates on four sides, each gate having the family name of a powerful clan. As the saying, 'People of high ranks see the south' suggests, the south gate was the most important, through which the keishi (capital) could be observed from the Imperial Palace. The gate was also called 'Otomomon,' named after the Otomo clan, which was a powerful clan in the Imperial Court. In 714, the gate system was revised into the Chinese style with the south gate being named Suzaku (a Vermilion Bird and a god said to rule over the southern heavens), which was one of the shijin (four gods said to rule over the four directions) that was believed to protect the south. The wide street leading from Suzakumon Gate to Rashomon Gate, the front gate of the capital city, was called Suzaku-oji Street.

The main gate to the Imperial Palace was given the same name in both Nagaoka-kyo (the capital of Japan in Kyoto from 784 to 794) and Heian-kyo. It was considered to be one of the most important gates, along with Otenmon Gate positioned in front of the Chodo-in, the state chamber of the Imperial Court. The area around the gate, however, gradually fell into ruin as the power of the daidairi declined, in the end becoming so run down that oni (demons) and thieves were believed to live in the area. It is believed that the Suzakumon Gate of the Heian-kyu Palace was located at the current Nijo Senbon-dori, Kyoto City, and there are small stone monuments to mark the gate location. Suzakumon Gate of the Heijo-Kyu Palace was restored in 1997 with a two-story structure, double roofs and a life-sized goken sanko (a gate where three of the five spaces between its columns are used as entrances); the restorations were based on gates that remain in temples in Nara prefecture (Heijo-Kyu palace ruin) and findings in archeological studies. This gate was shown in the drama 'Shikaotoko Aoniyoshi' (The Fantastic Deer-Man) by Fuji Television Network.