The Japanese Gateway
Kew's Chokushi-Mon (the
Gateway of the Imperial Messenger) is a four-fifths size replica of the Karamon
of Nishi Hongan-ji in Kyoto, the ancient imperial capital of Japan.
replica was originally built for the Japan-British Exhibition, held in London
in 1910, a year after which it was dismantled and rebuilt in Kew Gardens. The
mound on which it stands was once the site of Sir William Chambers' Mosque, hence
its name of 'Mossy Hill'.
Kew's Chokushi-Mon is the finest example of a
traditional Japanese building in Europe, built in the architectural style of the
Momoyama (or Japanese rococo) period in the late 16th century, a time of peace,
prosperity and flowering creativity.
Typically expressive, Chokushi-Mon
shows finely carved woodwork depicting flowers and animals, with the most intricate
panels portraying an ancient Chinese legend about the devotion of a pupil to his
The Japanese woodcarver, Kumajiro Torii, carried
out some detailed repair work in 1936 and 1957, but by 1988, the edifice was badly
dilapidated. With generous support from Japan and elsewhere, a full restoration,
combining traditional Japanese skills and modern techniques was completed, after
a year's painstaking work, in November 1995.
Today, Chokushi-Mon is seen
in rather more than its original splendour, because as part of the restoration,
the original lead-covered cedar-bark roof shingles were replaced with traditional
visually and more dramatic, copper tiles.
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to: Japanese Landscape