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Ruins in Kyoto could be ancient pagoda

  • JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI
                                The excavation site of what is believed to be the site of a five-story pagoda at Saiji temple in Kyoto.

    JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI

    The excavation site of what is believed to be the site of a five-story pagoda at Saiji temple in Kyoto.

KYOTO, Japan >> Architectural remains of foundation supports found at the site of a former Kyoto temple may have been those of a pagoda.

The Saiji temple built in Kyoto together with the Toji temple, a World Heritage site, followed the transfer of Japan’s capital from Nagaoka-kyo (now Muko city in Kyoto Prefecture) to Heian-kyo (central Kyoto city) in 794. According to records, Saiji had a five-story pagoda in the same style as one at Toji. Judging from the location, size and date of construction, Kyoto’s city government believes it likely that the ruins are from the Saiji pagoda.

But the supports cannot be confirmed as belonging to the pagoda because of the absence of a central pillar specific to the pagodas’ design. The city has been investigating the 1,022-square-foot plot since September.

According to the historical document “Nihon Sandai Jitsu- roku” (“The True History of Three Reigns of Japan”), past excavation survey records and other sources, the Saiji and Toji pagodas were built symmetrically on either side of the Rajomon grand gate of Heian-kyo. Most of the Saiji temple was destroyed in a fire in 990, and the pagoda succumbed to fire in 1233.

At the site, 12 oval-shaped holes, about 6-1/2 feet in diameter, form a grid pattern. The holes were reinforced by packed layers of pebbles and clay, which enhanced the strength of the foundations.

Judging from earthenware excavated on site, the structure is thought to have been built in the mid- to late-ninth century, coinciding with the pagoda’s construction, which started in 882. Its design, and the distance between the pillars, are nearly identical to those at Toji.

But without evidence of a central pillar, the city said it’s possible the remains are simply those of a warehouse.

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