The karamon or karakado is a type of gate seen in Japanese architecture. It is characterized by the usage of karahafu, an undulating bargeboard peculiar to Japan. Karamon are often used at the entrances of Japanese castles, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, and have historically been a symbol of authority.
Although kara (唐) can be translated as meaning "China" or "Tang", this type of roof with undulating bargeboards is an invention of Japanese carpenters in the late Heian period. It was named thus because the word kara could also mean "noble" or "elegant", and was often added to names of objects considered grand or intricate regardless of origin. The karahafu developed during the Heian period and is shown in picture scrolls to decorate gates, corridors, and palanquins.
Initially, the karahafu was used only in temples and aristocratic gateways, but starting from the beginning of the Azuchi-Momoyama period, it became an important architectural element in the construction of a daimyo's mansions and castles. The karamon entrance was reserved for the shogun during his onari visits to the retainer, or for the reception of the emperor at shogunate establishments. A structure associated with these social connections naturally imparted special meaning.
Karamon would later became a means to proclaim the prestige of a building and functioned as a symbol of both religious and secular architecture. In the Tokugawa shogunate, the karamon gates were a powerful symbol of authority reflected in architecture.