Gongen-zukuri style (a term concerning architecture) (権現造)

The gongen-zukuri style is a style of shrine buildings in Japan. It is also called ishinoma-zukuri style "literally, stone-room style."


One characteristic of this style is that the honden (main hall) and haiden (hall of worship), usually two separate buildings, are integrated, and connected by a low building called "ishinoma."

It is said that the gongen-zukuri style started with Hiyoshi Tosho-gu Shrine (built in 1634) in Sakamoto, Otsu City. It is said that this style originated in Kaizan-do Hall adopted in Buddist temples, where the Shi-do hall (a hall dedicated to the souls of ancestors), is connected to the Rai-do hall (a worship hall) with the Ainoma (connection room). However, it is also said that the hall is based on the hachiman-zukuri style.


Three buildings each in the irimoya style (with a half-hipped roof) and which are hirairi (a style of building which has the entrance on its long side) are joined by a building in the irimoya style and which is tsumairi (a style of building which has the entrance on its short side) and is placed perpendicular to the three buildings.

Because a large number of ridges is used in this style, it is also called "yatsumune-zukuri style" (literally, eight-ridge style). However, in actual fact it only has seven ridges.

In the hachiman-zukuri style, both the front hall and back hall are the main halls. On the other hand, in the gongen-zukuri style, only the rear building is the main hall, and it can be said that the haiden, ishinoma and honden constitute a form of composite shrine building.

The roofs

Many materials are used for making the roofs, including not only thatch but tiles and other materials.

The hafu (bargeboard) on the front side is either a chidori hafu or a noki kara hafu (both are hafu with a kind of decoration).

The pillars

Gongen-zukuri style buildings are horizontally symmetrical, with an even number of pillars on either side.

The haiden is the widest of the three, and the ishinoma and the honden are of different widths.

At Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine the haiden is 23.4 meters wide, the ishinoma 12.6 meters wide and the honden 9 meters wide. At Nikko Tosho-gu Shrine the haiden is 16.2 meters wide, the ishinoma 5.4 meters wide and the honden 9 meters wide. The honden of Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine is not symmetrical horizontally, because it has a wakiden (hall standing nearby the main hall) to its left.

The floors

The floor of the ishinoma was laid with stones in buildings of ancient styles, as in KitanoTenman-gu Shrine, but are otherwise mostly made of boards. In Nikko Tosho-gu Shrine, the floor of the ishinoma is made of tatami mats.

Typical gongen-zukuri style shrines

Nikko Tosho-gu Shrine
Hinomisaki-jinja Shrine
Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine
Osaki Hachi-jinja Shrine

[Original Japanese]