Daigokuden (大極殿)

Daigokuden was the main administrative building of the Imperial Court in ancient times in Japan. Located at the center of the north end of Chodoin (an office at the Heijo-kyo Palace) of Daidairi (the Greater Imperial Palace), Daigokuden had the Takamikura (the Emperor's seat and its housing) installed inside, where the enthronement ceremonies for Emperors and other national ceremonies were conducted. In Chinese Taoism, Daigokuden means the living area of the Emperor.

Daigokuden in Naniwa-kyo (the capital in the seventh century located at the center of Osaka City)
It was discovered by Tokutaro YAMANE. Its base mound is restored at Naniwa no Miya today.

Daigokuden in Heijo-kyo (the ancient capital in the eighth century located in Nara City)
It was called the First Daigokuden before the capital was transferred to Kuni-kyo (when the capital was temporarily located in Kizugawa City, Kyoto Prefecture for a few years in the eighth century), and the Second Daigokuden after the capital was returned to Nara again. The First Daigokuden was located directly north of Suzaku-mon Gate, the main gate of the Heijo-kyu Palace (the Imperial Palace of Heijo-kyo), and the Second Daigokuden was moved to a little to the east of Heijo-kyu. There remained an elevated base mound called 'Daikoku no Shiba' (grass mound of Daikoku) until the Edo period, and later it was excavated and proven to be the remains of the Second Daigokuden.

The Daigokuden was encircled by the Tsukijibeikairo (a cloister along a fence made of clay), and at the south of it, there was 'Komon' Gate which led to Chodoin.
This area was called 'Daigokudenin.'
In the New Year, seven decorated flags were set up in the garden at the front of the Daigokuden, where the Emperor received New Year greetings presented by the ministers. The First and the Second Daigokuden of the Heijo-kyu Palace were significantly different in structure; the Hanyuan Hall of the Daming Palace in Chang'an at the time of the Tang Dynasty in China had a strong influence on the First Daigokuden, which had a large front garden and was built elevated one step from the garden, and this was in turn a prototype of the Ryubidan (stone steps of the Heiangu Palace to the south of Daigokuden).

The First Daigokuden is currently being reconstructed to scale at the site where the Heijo-kyu Palace used to be, and is scheduled to be completed in 2010 which marks the 1300th anniversary of the founding of the Nara Heijo-kyo capital.
(Refer to the project of the commemorative events of the 1300th anniversary of Nara Heijo-kyo capital.)

Daigokuden in Heian-kyo (the ancient capital in Kyoto)
The Daigokuden of Heian-kyo was directly connected with the Chodoin to the south, in contrast to its predecessors which were encircled by Tsukijikairo (a cloister along a surrounding clay fence) containing a Komon Gate (refer to the image: Plan of Chodoin). However, because the Daigokuden stood beyond the Ryubidan with Shuran (red painted guard railings) on the boundary, a step called 'Ryubi-do' was used for passage between the Daigokuden and the Chodoin. You can see the Ryubidan Steps at Heian-jingu Shrine today. At the back of the Daigokuden, the Konro (roofed corridor with open sides) connected a building called 'Koadono' where the Emperor took a rest when he went out. Over the Ryubidan Steps, at the left and right side of the Daigokuden two small Rokaku (pagoda style buildings) called 'Byakkoro' (literally White Tiger Tower) and 'Soryuro' (literally Blue Dragon Tower) are situated opposite each other.

The builders of the Daigokuden of Heian-jingu Shrine and the designers in charge of the reconstruction of the Daigokuden of Heijo-kyu referred to "Nenju Gyoji Emaki" (a picture scroll of yearly events), which was created under the order of Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa during the Heian period, and clearly depicts the Daigokuden of irimoya-zukuri style (building with a half-hipped roof) architecture that measured 20 meters from east to west in width and four ken 7.3 meters from north to south in depth, and had red painted pillars and tiled roofs with a pair of golden Shibi (ornamental ridge-end tiles). Although the Daigokuden is depicted as a single storey building in "Nenju Gyoji Emaki" and "Heian Tsushi" (the history of Heian-kyo) compiled by the Counselor for Kyoto City in 1895, the original building had most likely been a two-storey massive structure comparable to Todai-ji Temple Daibutsuden (the house of the Great Buddha) in Nara or Izumo-taisha Shrine, as the expression 'Unta (Izumo taisha-Shrine as first), Wani (Todai-ji Temple Daibutsuden as second), and Kyosan (Heian-kyo Daigokuden as third)' is found in "Kuchizusami" (folk poems) written in 970, because the main building of the Daigokuden was rebuilt twice following two fires, and "Nenju Gyoji Emaki" depicts the Daigokuden rebuilt in 1072.

It had been repeatedly rebuilt following fires from the middle of the Heian period, and activities in the Daigokuden gradually decreased as the Imperial Court's main ceremonies took place more frequently in the Shishinden of the Dairi (the building in the Dairi, the living area of the Emperor). It was destroyed by fire in 1177, and was never rebuilt. At the historic spot of Senbon-dori Street Marutamachi-dori Street, Nakagyo-ku Ward, Kyoto City, there stands a stone monument built in 1895 in commemoration of the 1100th anniversary of the foundation of the Heian-kyo capital.

The Heian-jingu Shrine was built to imitate the Chodoin of the Heiangu Palace, and its front shrine was designed to imitate Daigokuden on a five-eighth scale.

[Original Japanese]