Traditional Japanese lighting, lamps and lanterns

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Do you know Japan's traditional lanterns and lights? Do you know Chochin, Bonbori, Andon and Tori? Japan is known to be a highly technological country. Its infinity of illuminated panels and the grandeur of its events, impresses the whole world.

There was a Christmas where Japan exhibited the Starlight Garden, where 190,000 blue LED lights came on over the Midtown Granden, creating an atmosphere of magic and charm. This is not always the case, Japan is known for its cultural grandeur, for mixing the new with the old, ancient customs that govern the new and old generations.

Another magnificent experience of modern lighting you find at Mori Digital Museum, we recommend visiting this wonderful place if you are in Odaiba, Tokyo.

As iluminações, luminárias e lanternas tradicionais do japão, bonbori, chouchin, tourou, andon

The way to illuminate the country, presented itself in a simpler way, involving other techniques that were considered modern and innovative for its time. There are other characteristic pieces of equipment that have adorned cities for centuries.

There is a tradition in Japan where thousands of lights in different tourist spots take place every year. Thousands visit this place and the Japanese often call these decorative lights and events ilumination [イルミネーション].

chōchin - SUSPENDED silk LUMINAIRES

Chōchin [提灯] are Japanese lanterns or lamps dating from 1085. They are traditionally made with a bamboo frame covered in silk or paper and are suspended by a hook.

As iluminações, luminárias e lanternas tradicionais do japão, bonbori, chouchin, tourou, andon

Chouchin are used to decorate shrines, temples and businesses. They are particularly associated with traditional consumption points, like Izakaya, which usually have a red chōchin on the front with the company name written in shodo calligraphy.

Chouchin moji [提灯文字] are the luminaries printed with ideograms, usually seen in temples, shrines and festivals. The word moji literally refers to Chinese letters and characters.

In Japanese folklore, there is the chōchin-obake, lanterns that the Japanese believe are trapped ghosts. In fact, they are nothing more than old lanterns, which end up dividing along one of its structures, giving the impression of a mouth.

As iluminações, luminárias e lanternas tradicionais do japão, bonbori, chouchin, tourou, andon

Currently the chōchin are made of plastic structures imitating the old ones and electric lamps are placed inside their structure.

Bonbori - Paper lamps

O bonbori [雪洞] is a kind of paper lamp used outdoors. It usually has a hexagonal profile and is used during festivals. It is usually hung from a wire or stands on a pole.

As iluminações, luminárias e lanternas tradicionais do japão, bonbori, chouchin, tourou, andon

They are used in festivities as in Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, in the city of Kamakura, the lanterns are painted and sent by famous artists and people. Approximately 400 paintings are displayed, with many signatures and calligraphies decorating the festivities.

Paper lamps originated in China more than 2,000 years ago, believed to be used in festivals by the first Chinese emperor Ying Zheng. Both bonbori and chouchin lamps are made of paper and are often confused.

The term bonbori is more used to refer to luminaries supported by a vertical base on the floor. Bonbori does not have to be exactly round, it can be square or diversified. It also does not mean that a hanging lamp cannot be called a bonbori.

As iluminações, luminárias e lanternas tradicionais do japão, bonbori, chouchin, tourou, andon

LANTERNS and illuminations Andon and akiandon

O Andon [行灯] consists of a bamboo, wood or metal frame, wrapped in paper stretched to protect the fire from the wind. It usually has a checkered appearance and some have designs or shodo. Andon became popular in the Edo Period.

Andon basically functioned as a portable lighting, a handle or upper drawer facilitated the movement, later it became more used in a fixed way. Its flame came from rapeseed oil, a typical Japanese plant or candlelight, however, its high cost ended up causing it to be replaced by sardine oil.

Of andon, derived the akiandon [秋行灯], mostly had the shape of a vertical box, was used indoors, and inside there was a support for the light, some had drawers at its base to facilitate refueling.

As iluminações, luminárias e lanternas tradicionais do japão, bonbori, chouchin, tourou, andon

Another derivation was the enshū andon [遠州行灯], that had a tubular shape, and an opening at the bottom, also registered the ariake andon [有明行灯] which appears in history as a bedside lamp or lantern for walking at night.

Tourou - THE STONE LANTERN

Tourou [灯籠] can be used in a broad sense to refer to any type of luminaire, but it is usually used specifically for lamps made of stone, bronze, iron, wood or other heavy material. 

These usually illuminate Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, Japanese gardens and other places that include tradition in their decoration. Dand in aligned form, the tori are shown as an offering to Buddha.

As iluminações, luminárias e lanternas tradicionais do japão, bonbori, chouchin, tourou, andon

There are two forms of this illumination, the tsuri-gilded [釣り灯籠] that are hung on the roofs and the dai-gilded [大灯籠] that are used in garden and open areas.

Before, these illuminations were exclusive to Buddhist temples. After the Heian period, they began to be used elsewhere, including in private homes. During the Azuchi-Momoyama period, lanterns were popularized by tea masters in their gardens.

Today this form of lighting is purely decorative and can be used in gardens, forests, near lakes and rivers or on paths that receive a very special touch.

As iluminações, luminárias e lanternas tradicionais do japão, bonbori, chouchin, tourou, andon
Ryokan

There is a ceremony called dourounagashi [灯籠流し] which consists of paper lanterns floating on a river.

What did you think of Japan's Traditional Illuminations?

Japanese technology is a characteristic of today, but when passing through the streets, observing the traces of its culture, we see that traditional illuminations are present in all environments, showing that the past and the present merge in a unique way.

Such a particular beauty, sends us to Japan an air of mystery and grandeur. I hope you enjoyed the article, if you liked it share and leave your comments.