Commoners in Kyoto Remodeling / De facto defence mechanism [Historical Document 1]

The followings are drawings of the walled neighbourhood in around 1570, depicted on the Rakuchū-rakugai-zu screens. The neighborhoods were surrounded by several layers of protection, firstly by the moats, followed by the thick city walls.

Figure 1 : Walled neighbourhood with guard house1.

Figure 2 : Gated entrance1.

Figure 3 : Close-up of gated entrance with guardians2.

The first drawing shows a guard house (yagura) over the gate of a walled neighborhood on the left, and the gated entry to another neighborhood on the right, kuginuki). The gated entrance within a high wall is accompanied by a guardian and there is a guardhouse in its vicinity. Bells and drums unseen from the drawing were probably kept in the inside, to issue warnings when there were imminent threats.

The second drawing depicted another walled community and its gate of entrance. Though it was less fortified when compared with the walled neighborhood in the first drawing, the height of the gate was much taller than an average person. While the third drawing is a close-up of the wooden gate entrance and its guardians.

Apart from the juxtaposition of the two gated communities, the river streams running along the neighborhoods are also noticeable. The rivers, together with the earth walls and wooden gates suggest a high degree of manipulation of the natural environment in order to maximize the defensive capability of the community. Both drawings demonstrate de facto control by commoner agency over the city’s defense, reflecting their pursue of peace and stability in wartime Kyoto.



[1] Stavros, Matthew. Kyoto. Spatial Habitus: Making and Meaning in Asia’s Architecture. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2014, 133-150.

[2] Hachise Co. Ltd.


[Bibliography 1]Commoners in Kyoto Remodeling / Peasants uprising in the Warring States


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