Pagodas in Japan are called tō (塔, lit. pagoda), sometimes buttō (仏塔, lit. Buddhist pagoda) or tōba (塔婆, lit. pagoda) and historically derive from the Chinese pagoda, itself an interpretation of the Indian stupa. Like the stupa, pagodas were originally used as reliquaries but in many cases they ended up losing this function. Pagodas are quintessentially Buddhist and an important component of Japanese Buddhist temple compounds but, because until the Kami and Buddhas Separation Act of 1868, a Shinto shrine was normally also a Buddhist temple and vice versa, they are not rare at shrines either. The famous Itsukushima Shrine, for example, has one.After the Meiji Restoration the word tō, once used exclusively in a religious context, came to mean also "tower" in the western sense, as for example in Eiffel tower (エッフェル塔, Efferu-tō).
Of the Japanese pagoda's many forms, some are built in wood and are collectively known as mokutō (木塔, lit. wood pagoda), but most are carved out of stone (sekitō (石塔, lit. stone pagoda). Wood pagodas are large buildings with either two stories (like the tahōtō (多宝塔, lit. Tahō pagoda), see photo below) or an odd number of stories. Extant wood pagodas with more than two storeys have almost always either three stories (and are therefore called sanjū-no-tō (三重塔, lit. three-storeyed pagoda)) or five (and are called gojū-no-tō (五重塔, lit. five-storeyed pagoda). Stone pagodas are nearly always small, usually well below 3 metres, and as a rule offer no usable space. If they have more than one storey, pagodas are called tasōtō (多層塔, lit. multi-storied pagoda) or tajūtō (多重塔, lit. multi-storied pagoda).
A pagoda's size is measured in ken, where a ken is the interval between two pillars of a traditional-style building. A tahōtō for example can be either 5x5 ken or 3x3 ken. The word is usually translated in English as "bay" and is better understood as an indication of proportions than as a unit of measurement.
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