At Ninna-ji, latticed shutters like those on the left can be seen on three buildings: Shinden in the palace grounds, Mie-do (the Founder’s Hall), and the main hall of the temple, Kon-do. These shutters are called “hajitomi” (半蔀 “half lattice”) or “shitomido” (蔀戸 “latticed shutters”) in Japanese. When the weather is nice, the hinged upper half of the lattice is lifted up and held in place with long metal hooks that descend from the ceiling. During inclement or cold weather, the shutters remain closed and help to keep out the elements. The lower half of the shutters can also be removed, making it possible to open up an entire wall if one so desired.
Hajitomi originated in the Heian Period (794-1185 ) and were an important architectural element of palaces and aristocratic residences. They are, therefore, a relatively uncommon sight at a temple. To the left, you can see the shutters on Shinden that face the South Garden. Shinden was the main residence of the retired emperor and the inclusion of hinged shutters adds to the aristocratic-feel of the architecture.
That these shutters can also be found on two buildings intended for religious purposes, Mie-do and Kon-do, is more unusual. The reason for their distinctively aristocratic architectural style is that both Kon-do and Mie-do were given to Ninna-ji by the Kyoto Imperial Palace. These buildings were originally built at the Imperial Palace, but in 17th century both were taken apart, carried to Ninna-ji, and reconstructed on the temple grounds. The hajitomi on these buildings serve as a reminder of the buildings’ original purposes and of the close ties Ninna-ji long maintained with the Imperial Palace.