Architecture History Japan

Sazaedo Double Helix Temple

During my time in Asia I’ve seen more than my fair share of Buddhist, Taoist, and Shinto temples but never have I encountered one quite as unique as Sazaedo (さざえ堂) that I found on my final day in Aizuwakamatsu.

Mount Iimori View

The temple lies on the northern side of Iimoriyama (飯盛山) hill where in 1868 a group of young Aizu soldiers saw Tsuruga Castle engulfed in flames and committed seppuku (ritual suicide).


The twenty boys had made a grave error since the castle had not actually been taken; the flames they had seen were from outside the castle walls. Today there are two museums devoted to their story.

Sazaedo Guardian

Completed in 1796, the wooden Sazaedo temple isn’t huge but what makes it unique is its double helix staircase on which the people going up and the people going down never pass each other.

Sazaedo Spiral Staircase

It’s rather hard to depict in photos alone but it basically looks like a DNA strand with two interlocking slopes which join at the top, allowing you to walk up one side and then down the other, all within the same circular space.

Downward Spiral

With every step the whole structure creeks but it seems more or less solid enough 😉

Sazaedo Roof

Sazaedo Pagoda

From the outside you can get a better sense of how it was constructed.

Sazaedo Double-helix Pagoda

Sazaedo is easily accessible by bus or rental bicycle from Aizu Wakamatsu Station.


Originally from the UK, David is designer and wanderer currently based in Kamakura. Prior to this, he lived in China and still returns frequently to continue exploring this vast and varied land. He started Randomwire in 2003 to chronicle his travels and occasional musings. Feel free to drop him a line.

2 Comments Add New Comment

  1. KK says:

    hm, this temple doesn’t look like one of the traditional Japanese architectures, but more like modern creation (like within a 100 years). however it looks very unique and i’d love to visit. the creek might be because of the lack of the solidness of the construction, or it’s meant to make some sound, like “uguisubari”.

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