Design aspects of Sanjusangendo Temple

This post is slightly different from other posts on phorenyatra blog. While you can read all about Sanjusangendo temple here, this time we will look at some interesting design aspects of this famous Buddhist temple.

curved roof

If you are thinking that roofs are slant to allow rain water to flow down, then a slant yet straight roof serves the purpose, and perhaps is even cheaper/simpler to install than what you see in this picture. Why go the extra step in curving the bamboo before installing it then?

– Turns out, the Buddhist people believe that evil spirits take form of straight lines and the curved bamboo confuses them and keeps them at bay.



Look at the bottom of this picture and you must be thinking what strips of paper tied to metal wire are doing at the back end of a Buddhist temple. These strips of paper are called Omikuji and they essentially are pieces of paper which tell your fortune. You have to pick one out of a bunch depending on your zodiac sign. Whats interesting is that if you get a “bad” fortune, you tie the Omikuji to a tree/wire so that the “bad” fortune can wait for a longer time at the temple and not get attached to you. However, if you get a good fortune, then tying it to a tree can amplify the “goodness”.


buddhism colours

Color scheme here is a combination of black (door latches), some yellow (near the roof) and red (I was told that it is red even though it may look like the doors are orange). These are 3 of the five significant colors in Buddhism. Apparently, these 5 colors are also important to Japanese cuisine, as mentioned here. However, I still have not figured out why the latches alone are black, and why the yellow color is restricted only to the top part of the structure. This page gives some idea of what each colour signifies. Do you have any ideas?


Beautiful roof carvings can be seen around the main hall and in surrounding areas, as you walk on the gravel path. Some of these roofs display great examples of Onigawara (fearsome beast). Besides having certain aesthetic qualities, it serves the spiritual purpose of driving away evil spirits.







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