Kawara, are roofing tiles made of fired clay.
History indicates that Kawara first appeared in China around 2,800 years ago. They were introduced to Japan in the middle of the 6th Century, at the same time Buddhism was introduced from Kudara, now Korea. Kawara were reportedly first used for the Asuka Temple in Japan.
At that time, temples were the only buildings allowed to use Kawara roofing tiles. In the Nara period, however. Kawara began to be used for various other types of buildings.
In the Edo period, new styles of Kawara were invented and the tiles came into popular use. Their widespread use was encouraged because they are fire proof.
Kawara are roughly classified into two categories in Japan: Nyouyaku Gawara or Glazed tiles and Ibushi Kawara or tiles which have oxidized and formed a silver- colored carbon film. As for shapes, there are now more than 1,000 varieties of Kawara.
Currently Sanshuu Kawara in Aichi, Awaji Kawara in Hyogo and Sekishu Kawara in Shimane are the three biggest production districts of high quality Kawara. They represent the finest in Japanese roofing tile making.
The Kofuku-ji Temple, located in Nobori Ooji-cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture, is a head temple of the Hosso-shu Buddhism sect and it was a private temple of the Fujiwara Clan. The principal image of the Buddha is Shakanyorai. The temple is 9th in sequence of the 33-temple Kannon pilgrimage and 4th of the 49-temple Yakushi Pilgrimage in Western Japan.
Koufuku-ji Temple was originally built in 669 by the wife of Fujiwara Kamatari under the name of Yamanashi-dera in Yamashina-ku, Kyoto City. It was transferred by Fujiwarano Fuhito to its present location and renamed Koufuku-ji.
Ooyu-ya is a medieval style bathhouse standing in the east of the Gojyuuno-to, or Five-story Pagoda. It is not known in which year the bathhouse was built, however, the current building was reportedly restored in 1426. It is now designated as a national important cultural property.
The bathhouse is 7 meters wide north to south and 7 meters wide east to west with a Hongawara tile roof. The west side of the bathhouse has the Irimoya roof style and the east side has the Kirimoya roof style. Inside the bathhouse are two gigantic iron pots that are used to make steam for a steam bath.
After the Middle Ages, the bathhouse was also used as a meeting place for public uprisings.
The bathhouse is tremendously valuable as an example of bathhouse architecture from the Middle Ages.
Kyo-Gawara is a roof tile mainly used for shrines, temples and tea-ceremony houses in Kyoto. A smooth surface and distinctive gloss are the characteristics of Kyo-Gawara. The glossy surface is drawn out by polishing a raw kawara a number of times with a pallet, one by one by hand.
In old days, the products were classified into the four ranks by the finesses of polished surface; Hon-Usu, Migaki, Mizunade and Nami, each of which was used for different purposes. Hon-Usu, which had the finest surface, was used for the front side of the house, while Nami for the back side. Presently, only Migaki can be made due to the availability of the material clay.
Kyo-Gawara features the difference in the ratio of length and width from that of the products in other areas. It is also thicker than any other kawara products. This difference in dimension gives distinctive beauty to Kyo-Gawara.
At present, artistic works including Oni-Gawara and Shoki statues are being made of Kyo-Gawara material.
Kaminoseki Bansho is the old guard station located in Nagashima, Kaminoseki-cho, Yamaguchi Prefecture. The guard station was established by the local government to keep an eye on ports and inspect shipping cargo during Edo era.
Because there are very few remnants of buildings preserved from the administrative arm at the beginning of Edo era, Kaminoseki Bansho is of significant importance. It was moved from inside the port where it was once located to its current address in 1996 and reconstructed as it looked originally.
The western side of the Setonaikai Inland Sea had several guard stations for cargo inspection and the region, currently Yamaguchi Prefecture, wasn’t exceptional. They had three stations which were called, in order of distance from the capital, “kaminoseki”, “nakanoseki” and “Shimonoseki” respectively.
Kaminoseki guard station has an overall length of 11.66m and width of 3.86m. It is a wooden building with Irimoya tile roof style and has “geya” (a lower roof) on all sides. The station is designated as a tangible cultural asset by the prefecture.
Chohoji Temple in Shimotsu Town in Wakayama Prefecture is a temple of the Tendai sect of Buddhism. It is known for the graveyard of the successive lords of the Kishu domain. The Daimon gate, the main hall and the Tahoto pagoda are designated as National Treasures.
This Tahoto is a two-story pagoda with tiled roof. It is presumed to have been built in 1357. On top of the roof is the decorative finial. Fine woodwork is given to every part of the building including the bracket complex under the roof of the lower story and the closely spaced parallel rafters at the eaves of the upper story.
It is said that the lower story is supported by four pillars and an alter housing the statue of Dainichi Nyorai is placed inside the lower level. With a height of 13.4 m, this pagoda is relatively small in size, it is said to be a well-balanced masterpiece, gracefully constructed in the pure Japanese style.
Negoroji Temple in Iwade City in Wakayama Prefecture is a head temple of the Shingi Shingon Buddhism. The Daito pagoda at Negoroji temple was constructed by modeling after the one in Mt. Koya, the headquarters of the Shingon Buddhism. According to the document discovered during the demolition work for renovation, the construction started in 1480, continued for nearly 70 years and completed in 1547. The bullet wound made at the time of the Siege of Negoroji commanded by Toyotomi Hideyoshi can be seen on the surface of the base wood.
A “daito” is a large-sized “tahoto” pagoda with a circular core inside the lower story. The Daito pagoda at Negoroji Temple is designated as a National Treasure as one of a few existing Daito pagodas that escaped war damage. It is an overwhelmingly huge wooden building with a height of 35.1 meter and a width of 15 meters. It is a two-story pagoda with a tiled roof. Seen from outside, the lower story looks square but the inside is a circular sanctuary surrounded with twelve pillars.
The Group of Tile Kiln Site at Hinodeyama
The group of tile kilns was excavated at Hinodeyama Hill in Shikama Town, Miyagi Prefecture. They are thought to have been the ruins of one of the few roof tile producing factories in the ancient Tohoku region. The site is designated as a Historic Site by the national government.
It is thought that the roof tiles for Tagajo Fort, which was the administrative center of the Tohoku region in the early Nara period (710-794), were produced at these kilns. Up to the present, 6 sites have been confirmed and 7 kilns are preserved in the site, which is presently arranged into a history park, where azalea trees and green turf create fresh green oasis. You can see large holes dug in the slope of the hill located in the tranquil countryside.
The excavated roof tiles include the half-round eave-end pendant tile with a lotus pattern with double layered petals, the concave rectangular pendant tiles with a pattern of parallel lines, half-round tiles, and broad concave tiles. Besides roof tiles, pieces of Sueki pottery were found. From the bottom of the Sueki vessels and the kodai-foot, it can be seen that the static thread method, in which the vessel is cut from the wheel head with thread, was employed.
The Kido tile kiln ruins site in Tajiri Numabe in Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a designated national Historic Site. It was revealed from the research conducted in 1958 and 1974 that these are the ruins of the cave kilns to produce roof tiles for Tagajo Fort at the time of its first construction in the early 8th century.
The excavated roof tiles include the half-round eave-end pendant tile with a lotus pattern with double layered petals, the concave rectangular pendant tiles with a pattern of parallel lines, half-round eave tiles, rectangular eave tiles, half-round tiles, broad concave tiles and oni-gawara (ridge-end tiles).
Also a broad concave tile inscribed with the name of the head of a sub-village composed of 200 families in the Osabe village (ri) in the Nakamura sub-county (go) in a certain county was found from the surface of the ground. This is an academically interesting historical datum to show that the central government’s system of Go-ri (sub-county and village) and its military system had already been introduced in this area, which is as far as 40 km away from Tagajo Fort, the administrative center of the time.