Historical Information about Rajomon Gate
The term “rajo” refers to the rampart that encompassed ancient cities, and “Rajomon” refers to the gateway through the rajo. Whereas robust rajo walls were built in ancient China to protect against enemies outside, in Japan—starting with Fujiwara-kyo (the imperial capital of Japan between 694 and 710, located in present-day Kashihara, Nara)—rajo were only built on the right and left wings of the Rajomon Gate at the city limits on the south side of the imperial compound, with only a simple embankment, or rampart, and ditch surrounding the capital.
In Heian-kyo (ancient Kyoto, the imperial capital of Japan between 794 and 1868), the Rajomon Gate was built at the southern end of Suzaku-oji (Suzaku Avenue) and served as the main gate to the capital. The Rajomon is also called “Raiseimon” (as in the Uji Dainagon Monogatari collected stories and Eiga Monogatari) and “Raseimon” (as in the ancient encyclopedia Shugaisho), or “Raishomon” (as in the ancient code book Engishiki) and “Rashomon” (also used in the Shugaisho), which is the common name made popular by the Noh play “Rashomon” by Kanze Nobumitsu in medieval Japan. These variations are the result of alternate readings of the kanji in the name.
During the Edo Period, the Rajomon Gate ruins were located in an area known as Karahashi-mura Aza Raisei (present-day Karahashi Rajomoncho, Minami Ward), which sounds similar to Raiseimon.
Historical Information about Sai-ji Temple
In Heian-kyo, Suzaku-oji passed through the center of the city with Rajomon Gate at its southern end. Sai-ji Temple and To-ji Temple were built to the left and right of Rajomon Gate, with Sai-ji Temple given by imperial decree to the priest Shubin and To-ji Temple to the priest Kukai. Construction of other imperial temples besides these two temples was not allowed in ancient Kyoto.
Sai-ji Temple was built to the west of Rajomon Gate after Kyoto became the imperial capital in 794. As with To-ji Temple, Sai-ji Temple was the site of imperial memorial services and other events, ensuring its title of an imperial temple.
However, following the decline of the Ritsuryo political system in Japan, most of the temple burned down in the great fire of 990, and although Sai-ji Temple was partially rebuilt afterward, historical records state that the temple burned down again in 1233, never to be rebuilt.
A full-scale excavation began in 1959 led to the discovery of remains of the main hall, corridors, monastery, dining hall, south gate, and other structures. As a result of the excavation, the area designated a historic site was expanded in 1966, leading to the discovery of larger buildings in the northern part of Sai-ji Temple.
Today, the Sai-ji Temple ruins near Karahashi Elementary School and Sai-ji Park are a designated national historic site marked by a stone monument.