Guards of Toji: the Akazunomon gate and the Toji Chinju-Hachimangu shrine

東寺境内図
Map of the Toji precincts

The Todaimon(東大門) gate quietly stands to the northeast of the five-storied pagoda of Toji. Todaimon is also called “Akazunomon(不開門) (lit. never-opened gate)”. As its name suggests, the doors of this gate are not opened except on special occasions. Do you know why?

In June 1336, Ashikaga Takauji(足利尊氏) managed to enter Kyoto after being defeated by Emperor Go-Daigo(後醍醐天皇), and established his headquarters in Toji. When he fell into a predicament during a battle in Kyoto with Nitta Yoshisada(新田義貞) and others, he had a narrow escape by firmly closing the doors of Todaimon. Small holes that are presumed to be the marks of arrows during this escape still remain on these doors.

Since then, this gate has been called “Akazunomon”, and its doors remain firmly closed except at the time of disaster or during renovation.

Another anecdote related to this battle is recorded in Toji.

Kyoo-Gokoku-ji Sogo Daihosshi-ra Moshijo-an web page
Item of 45-4 Box HI (Katakana), “Kyoo-Gokoku-ji Sogo Daihosshi-ra Moshijo-an”, dated October 1339

A scene from the battle in Kyoto that was mentioned in the above is described in this document, starting in the 12th line (就中頃年以来…) from the right end of this photo (率土神明…). Amazingly, it reports that the Myojin deity of Toji Chinju-Hachimangu(東寺鎮守八幡宮) shot arrows to ward off Yoshisada and others, backing up Takauji. Isn’t this an anecdote suitable for Toji Chinju-Hachimangu, a shrine famous for the prayer for victory?

Takauji had a narrow escape thanks to the protection of Toji Chinju-Hachimangu. Nawa Nagatoshi(名和長年) a close associate of Emperor Go-Daigo died in action during this fight, but a fierce battle was still in progress. What would be his next move? Wait for the next story.

※足利尊氏(1305-1358):Takauji Ashikaga the first the Generalissimo for the Subjugation of Barbarians (holding the post: for from 1338 to 1358) of the Muromachi Shogunate.
※後醍醐天皇(1288-1339):In 1333, the Emperor Godaigo destroy the Kamakura Shogunate, and begins new politics by the Emperor, but collapses in three years.
※新田義貞(1300-1338):Yoshisada Nitta attacks the Kamakura Shogunate, and drive it into the extinction; is one of the central figures of establishing it ‘Kenmu no Shinsei (The new government of Emperor Godaigo)’.
※名和長年(?-1336):Nagatoshi Nawa met the Emperor Godaigo who got away from Oki in senjyozan mountain, and repulsed the Kamakura Shogunate forces.
※東大門:Todaimon (literally, eastern large gate) .

(Kaji, Historical Materials Section, the Kyoto Prefectural Library and Archives)