This rare model of the famous Yomeimon Gate to the Toshogu Shrine at Nikko dates from the late nineteenth century. Models of Buddhist temples and famous buildings were in vogue in Japan in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, spearheaded by scholars anxious to preserve and record rapidly deteriorating Buddhist sites. In 1910, the Japanese government gave this trend an antiquarian spin by appropriating their past as evidence of a venerable architectural heritage equal to that of Western powers. They sent scale models of the Yomeimon Gate and the inner precincts of the temple Todaiji in Nara, including twin seven-story pagodas, to London for the Japan-British Exhibition. That model of the Yomeimon Gate is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, which has a notable collection of scale models of Japanese architecture. The model offered here was until recently in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Intricately carved seated guardian sculptures flank the doorway, matched by a pair of lions on the reverse. Six torii gates and an arched bridge complete the ensemble.
The Yomeimon Gate of the Toshogu Shrine and Mausoleum at Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, built for Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, is familiar to every tourist. After his death, Ieyasu was deified as The Great Incarnation Who Illuminated the East, and in 1636 an ornate shrine was established to house his remains. The Yomeimon, the main gate, is one of the most elaborate in Japan and is a registered National Treasure.