The Kirizuma-zukuri style is one of Japanese traditional architectural styles, especially said of the styles of roofs. Japanese roofs are classified into any one of the three representative styles; Kirizuma (gable roof), Yosemune (hip roof) and Irimoya (hip-and-gable roof).
The ends of buildings with gable roofs have a triangular space (gable) made by the incline of the two sides of the roof. Seen from the gable side, the wall looks as if it was cut by the roof; hereby it is called Kirizuma, which literally means “a cut gable.”
The Kirizuma-zukuri style was a basic architectural style in ancient Japan. The gable roof was prized most highly during the Kofun period (3rd-6th centuries), when it was the symbol of the residences of powerful rulers. However, in the Nara period (710-794), when the Yosemune-zukuri style (with hip roof) was introduced from China, it was considered more sophisticated because extension of the roof was apparently recognized.
Later on, the Irimoya-zukuri style (with hip-and-gable roof) became most favored in the prestigious buildings such as palaces, noblemen’s residences and temples due to its combined features; the symbolic character of the Kirizuma style and the expansivity of the Yosemune style.
Zuiganji Temple in Matsushima Town, Miyagi Prefecture, is a temple of the Rinzai sect and is known as a family temple of the Date clan. It was founded in 828 by Jikaku Daishi En’nin, a high-ranked priest in the Heian period. Its formal name is Matsushima Shoryuzan Zuigan Enpuku Zenji. It is also called Matsushima-dera.
The present temple buildings were completed in 1609 after the 5-year construction work. It is said that Date Masamune invited 130 excellent carpenters from all over the country to build this temple. The main hall, the Onari entrance, the corridor and Kuri (the priests’ quarters) are designated as National Treasures. The Onari-mon and Naka-mon Gates and the Taikobei wall are nationally designated Important Cultural Properties.
The Onari-mon Gate is a Yakuimon-styled stately structure with a tiled roof in the Irimoya-zukuri (hip and gabled) style, while the Naka-mon Gate in front of the main hall is a simple four-legged gate with a Kokera-buki (thin wooden shingles) roof. It has no walls to connect the legs. The white clay wall is Taikobei, or “drum wall,” which is a double wall that consisted of two separate walls between which earth, sand and stones were placed.
The palm trees respectively producing white and red flowers stand on both sides of the Naka-mon Gate. They are called “Garyubai (Lying Dragon Palm)” from their appearance. It is said that Date Masamune brought them back from Korea. They come into bloom in the middle of April.
Koryuji Temple in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a temple of the Soto sect and is an historic temple pertaining to the Date clan. It was founded in 1467 by Date Mochimune, the 11th head of the clan. His fifth son, who had learned Buddhism at Kounji Temple in present Murakami City, Niigata Prefecture, returned to his hometown and served as the founding priest.
The temple is known for its stately main gate. It used to have been one of the gates of Shiraishi Castle, which was resided by the Katakura family, who served as the head retainer of the Date clan. It was moved to this place as the main gate of the temple at the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912). It is made of zelkova wood and has a tiled-roof in Kirizuma-style (the gabled roof). Its building style looks like the Yakui-mon style.
Two five-story pagodas to commemorate Mochimune and his wife are erected in the precinct and create tranquil atmosphere. Three peach trees produce cute white and pink flowers in spring.
Zuiganji Temple in Matsushima Town, Miyagi Prefecture, is a temple of the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect. It was founded as Enpukuji Temple in 828 by Jikaku Daishi En’nin, a high-ranked priest of the Tendai sect. The temple received faithful protection from the Oshu Fujiwara clan as a temple built at the Emperor's behest. The principal object of worship is Sho Kannon Bosatsu.
In 1259, it became a temple of the Rinzai sect, and was prosperous for some time and then declined in the Warring States period (1493-1573). It was revived in 1609 by Date Masamune and renamed Zuigan Enpuku Zenji Temple.
Kuri (the priests’ quarters) and the corridor were constructed presumably during the Keicho era (1596-1614). They are elaborately designed precious historic structures. Kuri is connected to the main hall by the corridor, which has railings with incised decorations. Kuri has a huge tiled roof in the Kirizuma-zukuri (gabled) style. The embellishment of gable pediments and the layout of the corridor are especially wonderful. They are collectively designated as a National treasure.
The residence of the Kuchiba family, who acted as Yorigumi (a quasi-principal retainer) of the Choshu domain during the Edo period, is preserved in its original form in Horiuchi Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings located in Hagi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. Among the residence of high-ranked warriors in this district, the Kuchiba family’s residence is relatively old and it is a precious historic site as one of the small number of warriors’ residences preserved in the country. The main building and Omote-mon (the front gate) are nationally designated Important cultural Properties.
The main building is supposed to have been built from the late 18th to the early 19th centuries. It is in the kirizuma-style (a house with a gable roof) with sangawarabuki (with base tiles) and has a protruding wing in the Irimoya-style. Characteristically, the innermost room has the adjacent room called “ai-no-ma,” where guardsmen stationed to protect the master.
The front gate is a long roofed-gate with a width of 22.2 m and a depth of 4.9 m. It is built in the Irimoya-style with hongawarabuki (with formal tiles), the front side of which is plastered with white clay and has beautiful sea slug walls covering its lower part. It is said that this magnificent gate had been used for the domain lord’s manor in Edo before being relocated to this place. It is the largest existing gate of a warrior’s residence in the city.
Kogakuji Temple in Enzan Kamiozo, Koshu City, Yamanashi Prefecture is Daihonzan (the headquarters temple) of the Kogakuji school of the Rinzai sect. It was founded in 1380 by the Zen monk Bassui Tokusho, who was invited to this place by Takeda Nobunari, the 11th head of the Takeda clan. The principal object of worship is Shaka Nyorai.
The temple had suffered from a fire several times in the Edo Period (1603-1868) and most of the temple buildings were burnt down. The main gate is the only remnant of the structures that were constructed in the Muromachi period (1336-1573). This four-legged gate with the gable roof made of cypress bark is designated as a National Important Cultural Property as one of a few precious structures in Zen architectural-style in the Muromachi period. In this temple, Butsuden (the hall where the Buddhist image is housed) is uniquely combined with Kaizando Hall (the hall sacred to the memorial tablets of the founding fathers of the sect).
Legend has it that the armor called “Tate-nashi-no-yoroi,” which had been handed down to the heads of the Takeda clan as the family treasure together with Japan’s oldest Rising Sun flag, was buried at the foot of a large cedar tree in the precinct when the Takeda clan was defeated by Tokugawa Ieyasu, who ordered to dig it out later and dedicated it to Kandaten Shrine.
The Yoshihara Family Residence is one of the historic residences in the region. It served as a residence for successive wealthy farmer family, the Yoshiharas, who were the descendants of Fujiwara no Kamatari and moved from Kyoto. It is designated as a National Important Cultural Property in 1991.
From the talisman preserved in the family, the main house was supposedly built in 1635. It is the oldest farmhouse in Yosemunezukuri-style (a square building) with a thatched roof. The large main house includes six rooms and the doma (the earth floor space). The large doma space is supported by the double beam system without using any pillars.
The interior of the house is provided with every luxury imaginable for a farmhouse of the time. The velar-cut figure of the thatched kirizuma (gabled) roof remains in the original beautiful form. The nure-en (a shallow veranda) at the back of the house gives a touch of old Japan. The Yoshihara Family Residence is reminiscent of good old days in Japan.
Usa Shrine, a National Treasure, is the mother shrine of the 40,000 Hachiman shrines located all over the country. The shrine stands, along with Ise Shrine, as the two main shrines of the Imperial Court, and was built in its current location in the year 725 during the Nara period.
The structure of Usa Shrine was rebuilt from 1855 through 1861 and was restored in 1985. The shrine features crimson pillars, white walls and uses Japanese cedar bark. The inner structure and the outer structure are of Kiritsuma-style roofing and between them, a gold-colored rain trough, more often known as the Golden Trough of Usa, runs through.
The architecture of Usa Shrine is representative of Hachiman-style architecture. Apart from the religious structures, there are countless ancient remains and graves excavated here, along with remains of the airstrip and aircraft hangars of the Usa Naval Air Corp used during World War II. Here, at Usa Shrine, history from ancient to modern times can be felt.