Rokaku (a multi-storied building) (楼閣)

Rokaku indicates a multi-storied building. Its meaning is the same as that of "takadono" or "Koro (高楼)." Its meaning is similar to that of a tower, but "tower" originally indicated a Buddhist tower in ancient times and in modern days "tower" has come to be used as translated word "entower." Before that, a multi-storied building was generally called a rokaku or a koro (tall building).

In China

楼 (=樓) (rou) indicates a multi-storied building and 閣 (kaku) a building located in a high place, such as a palace or a turret, with a building meeting both of these conditions generally called 楼閣 (rokaku). In China, many rokakus were built on the riverside or on the seaside for commemorating big national events or for political demonstration purposes. Since it was also customary that a boro (watch tower) was placed in a castle gate, you can see boroes as important relics of rokakus as well. The oldest wooden rokaku relic is the Kannon-kaku of Dokuraku-ji Temple (located in Ji County, Tianjin City), built in 984 of the Liao era.

The sight of a large, lofty tower still standing on a riverside was admired by many poets, who produced many masterpieces of interesting and tasteful poems, for example, '黄鶴楼送孟浩然之広陵' (Sending off Haoran MENG for Yangju at Yellow Crane Tower) by Li Bai and '黄鶴楼' (Yellow Crane Tower) by Hao Cui (around 704 - 754).


A koro is a rokaku used for informing people the time, and the one in Nanjing City is famous.

Famous rokakus in China

Yellow Crane Tower (in Wuhan, Hubei Province)

Pavilion of Prince Teng (in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province)

Yueyang Tower (in Yueyang City, Hunan Province)

The above three buildings are called the three great towers in Jiangnan.

When Penglai Pavilion was added to the above three buildings, they are called four great towers in China.

Penglai Pavilion (in Penglai City, Shandong Province)

Zhenwu Pavillon (Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region)

Yanyulou Pavillon (in Jiaxing City, Zhejiang Province)

Zhenhai Tower (in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province)

Yuejianglou Pavillon (in Nanjing City, Jiangsu Province)

In Japan

The first rokaku building in Japan is boroes (watch towers) during the Yayoi period. However, multi-storied buildings were scarcely used, and in many of Buddhist towers which are seemingly multi-storied, rooms were provided only on the ground level, with only roofs constructed for the higher portion. Shinden-zukuri style buildings and shoin-zukuri style buildings for noblepersons' residences were also one-storied. During the Muromachi period and later eras, temples and tea rooms employing a continental-style rokaku increasingly corresponded to the increasing popularity of the zen sect. Multi-storied buildings were important not only from the viewpoint of the design, but were also built intended for looking down at people from a higher position that provided a commanding view of the area around them. Typical of such examples are Rokuon-ji Temple and the Jisho-ji Temple in Kyoto. On the other hand, due to military necessity and also for the necessity of warring loads strengthening the control of their territories, 'tenshu' (also tenshukaku: castle turret) was designed based on boroes, with many such turrets built as a symbol of castle buildings. On the other hand, rokaku buildings in temples in Japan developed independently of those on the continent, and many superior wooden rokakus, such as Hiunkaku in Nishihongan-ji Temple, were designed and built. In the modern period, guest rooms of inns in urban areas came to be built on the second floor to make land space available and to be used more effectively. Long-established inns' names of '--楼 (ro)' or '--閣 (kaku)' would be reminiscent of those days. Entering the Meiji era, brick-made rokakus, such as Ryounkaku (so-called Asakusa Twelve Stories), were built, but these buildings would be more appropriately called high-rise buildings.

Rokuon-ji Temple

Jisho-ji Temple

Hiunkaku (in Nishihongan-ji Temple)

These buildings described above were called 'the three kakus in Kyoto.'

Donkokaku (in Hoshun-in Temple, a tacchu (sub-temple) of Daitoku-ji Temple)

When the building described immediately above is added to the three above, they are called 'the four kakus in Kyoto.'

The big building of Tofuku-ji Temple (Dennekaku in Tofuku-ji Temple)

When the building described immediately above is added to the four above, they are called 'the five kakus in Kyoto.'

Choshukaku (in Sankei-en Garden)

Seihoro: one of the four roes (towers) that were located in the palace in Heian-kyo Capital
The tea ceremony room in the Mori jinya (a regional government office)

Idiomatic phrases

Kuchu-rokaku (a rokau in the air): This phrase is used for meaning an imaginary thing, because such a rokaku cannot in fact be built,
or for meaning a mirage.

Sajo no rokaku (building a rokaku on sand): This phrase means that it looks magnificent, but will be broken down easily because its foundation is not solid.

Matenro: skyscrapers
Super-high buildings are popularly called "matenro."

[Original Japanese]