AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Maintenance on a building with 13 roofs

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, November 1, 2007

ANY HOMEOWNER living in a wood frame house will tell you that the repair and maintenance is too frequent and too expensive. Now imagine what it must be like to be the owner of a wood frame structure with 13 roofs!

That was the predicament in which the Tanzan Shinto shrine in Sakurai, Nara Prefecture, found itself. Part of the shrine property is the only wood frame, 13-story pagoda in Japan. Seventeen meters high, it was built in 645 by Fujiwara Jo’e, the eldest son of Fujiwara no Kamatari, as a memorial to his father after he died. (The present building is a recreation build during the Muromachi period, which ended in 1568.)

13-story-pagoda.jpg

The elder Fujiwara was the founder of the Fujiwara family, which exercised enormous political influence on the Imperial court during the Heian period (794-1185). The family’s influence became so dominant that the last three centuries of this period are sometimes referred to as the Fujiwara period. Two of Kamatari’s granddaughters married emperors, which became a practice that cemented their influence over the Imperial family. His spirit is also the enshrined deity in the shrine.

The building was last disassembled and repaired during the Meiji Era (1868-1912). All the roofs of the pagoda are thatched with cypress bark, and since then the layers of mold had become so thick it threatened the structure’s integrity.

The repair work was finished early this month, in time for a festival to be held at the site in November.

The Japanese honor tradition and history as much as any people everywhere, but they’re also practical. This time, they reinforced all those cypress bark roofs with copper plate!

8 Responses to “Maintenance on a building with 13 roofs”

  1. camphortree said

    My high school history teacher would purposefully read out 藤原鎌足 as Fujiwara no Katamari so that some students would break into laughter, and the rest of the class(me included) would wake up. Thanks for the fun history review lesson.

  2. ponta said

    My high school history teacher would purposefully read out 藤原鎌足 as Fujiwara no Katamari so that some students would break into laughter, and the rest of the class(me included) would wake up.

    Your teacher was great. I think my teacher just read it as Kamatari, so I was sleeping.

  3. Overthinker said

    Ampontan – I think these two comments are discrete suggestions that his name was Kamatari, not Katamari: you might want to edit the post a little.

  4. ampontan said

    There, fixed it. And I must have looked at it a half a dozen times to make sure I got it right.

    I think there’s a name for that kind of mistake (switching around letters like that)…other than stupidity. That’s why I call the site Ampontan!

    Thanks guys.

  5. Overthinker said

    It’s a malapropism, I believe, named after Mrs Malaprop.

  6. Martin F said

    With readers like this, you will never fade into Bolivian…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malapropism

  7. Overthinker said

    You’re right, it’s not a malapropism; it’s a spoonerism.

  8. okinawa said

    Thanks for the information, I don’t see a contact feature on the site, how do I get in touch with you?

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