monzenmachi 門前町
KEY WORD : architecture / folk dwellings
Also pronunced monzenchou. A settlement in front of the main gate of a temple (or *torii 鳥居 of a shrine), principally engaged in catering to the needs of pilgrims and visitors. Generally a linear settlement made up of houses, inns, hatago 旅籠 (see *hatagoya 旅籠屋), and shops mostly selling food and drink or local products on both sides of the approach road to the temple or shrine. Such settlements may often have derived from a market, ichiba 市場, held before the gates of a major sanctuary in the latter part of the ancient period and the mediaeval period. As specifically pilgrim-oriented townships, they had begun to emerge by the end of the Kamakura period, but they developed enormously in the Edo period, when peaceful conditions and prosperity, combined with a tolerant attitude towards them on the part of the Tokugawa regime, made pilgrimages increasingly popular. Examples include the monzenmachi before the gates of Zenkouji 善光寺 in Nagano prefecture and Kotohira 琴平, before the shrine of Konpira 金毘羅 in Kagawa prefecture. The term is sometimes applied more widely to religious settlements in general.


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