The ancient city of Kyōto functioned as Japan’s capital between 794 and 1869. Historically, its main district was known as Heian-kyō, where the Emperor’s residence was located. The city’s official entrance was called Rajōmon or Rashōmon, which means “city-wall gate.”
Originally a magnificent structure, the Rajōmon was destroyed by a storm in either 816 or 980, and was never restored. For a while, the upper part of the gate was used to dispose of unclaimed corpses. According to the Shōyūki, some cornerstones were all that had remained of the famed gate by the early 11th century.
There are a number of legends concerning Rajōmon Gate. In one, it was haunted by an oni, or demonic ogre, who was defeated by samurai Watanabe no Tsuna. The 12th-century anthology Konjaku Monogatari features of the story a thief, set during the times when the gate was starting to crumble. It was adapted into a short story by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa in 1915. This story was then further popularized by Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 Rashomon, whose plot derives from another of Akutagawa’s works, In a Grove.
None of the gate’s ruins have been unearthed to this day, but its original site is commemorated by a stone monument, located in a small park beside Yatori Jizo-son Temple. A smaller recreation of Rajōmon can also be found outside Kyōto Station.
Know Before You Go
The monument is in Hanazono Children's Park, Kyoto. The nearest station is Tōji Station, less than 15 minutes away by walk.