On the Oni Wikipedia, scrolled down to Demon Gate, it says that in Chinese Taoism and traditional Japanese esoteric cosmology (Onmyōdō), the direction northeast (though the wiki uses northeasterly) is an unlucky direction. On the animal zodiac wheel, the rat being north (or near north), northeast, or kimon, as it is called other-where, is the ox tiger direction. Kimon is considered an unlucky direction because it is believed that evil spirits pass through that direction.

Temples are often built facing kimon. Why build a building facing an unlucky direction?

  • This is a really perceptive question, and I couldn't answer without some research.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 19:46
  • 1
    Wikipedia is often dubious on non English subjects, but you especially shouldn't take unsourced claims on it at face value. Which temple is built facing the kimon? Certainly nothing comes to my mind - most of them faces south. However, temples are sometimes built in the direction of the kimon (from a city, or complex), e.g. Enryaku-ji is to the northeast of Kyoto, in order to provide protection. This might be the cause of the original editor's confusion. Incidentally, the temple's main hall faces due east.
    – Semaphore
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 11:13

1 Answer 1


The article on Wikipedia gives as examples of temples with Kimon facing north-east:

  • Enryaku-ji
  • Kan'ei-ji

These temples are deliberately constructed for the Kimon to face the nearby (Capitol) city, their function is to actually keep the Oni out of the city (i.e. build where the Oni would gather outside the city). Cities were built to have their Kimon protected with clusters of temples place towards the northeast. Allegedly, the spiritual power of these sepulchers would rebuff the evil flowing from the Kimon. If we look at the example of Kyoto, we see that Enryaku-ji on Mt. Hiei sits at exactly where the city’s Kimon would be.

Traditionally, many buildings in Japan have been erected with some sort of odd irregularity towards the northeast. In many cases, this peculiarity takes the form of an L-shaped indentation that is said to keep out the oni and other spirits. Even the Kyoto Imperial Palace has notched corners on the northeastern exterior.

On a final note, I should probably mention that the Kimon built in this direction will typically have a "spirit screen", i.e. a structure right behind the gate blocking a direct line of entrance:

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It is believed that Oni and other spirits can only travel in straight lines. You will find this "spirit screen" in many Chinese and Japanese traditional buildings, including ordinary family houses.

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