Japanese-Garden-Lanterns their history from shrines and temples to your garden, their styles and uses.

Japanese-Garden-Lanterns (ISHI-DORO)originally started in the ASUKA period(6th and 7th century)in the Buddhist shrines and temples. In fact the oldest Japanese stone lantern in Japan is at the KONDO of ASUKADERA TEMPLE in the Nara prefecture, unfortunatly the middle parts are missing. Yet the stone lantern in front of the JORURIJI TEMPLE garden is intact and dates back to the KAMAKURA PERIOD (circa 1366).For me the best combination of Japanese garden lanterns is the KATSURA PALACE whos spacious garden has over 20 lanterns including the KASUGA,ORIBE and the snow-veiwing YUKIMI-GATA Styles.

07 Katsura pond & teahouse.JPG

The weathered and aged stone lantern on the far end of the sand-bar (opposite Ama-no-Hashidate) serving as a focal point during the day and at night lighting the mirror surface of the pond with its resultant mystical reflections of the tea house.

The photograph below was taken(by Fujin from flickr.com)in the Japanese Garden in Seattle, USA and gives a great picture of the combination of lanterns, ponds and reflections..... plus the trees are magnificent.

Lantern and pond

From the Buddhist temples lanterns were introduced into SHINTO shrines around the 13th century and then were adapted into the TEA GARDEN of the 16th century.As the tea ceremonies were held at night the lanterns help to guide guests to the tea room.Even though today they are more for decoration they should always be placed where light is required.The early temple lanterns were made of bronze but wood and stone became the norm with weathered stone(granite)being the favoured look.WABI_SABI is the term used to describe the look of age which literaly translated means "withered loneliness" it is this that the Japanese value most in a lantern.Various techniques can be used to give the patina of age to a new lantern such as rubbing/smearing with bird droppings,dirt or snail secretions then keep shaded and moist until moss is formed.

To light your lantern there are small kereosene lamps than can be used. In my garden we use a small square container with a wick filled with citronella, so on summer nights so we have some protection from mosquitos! as well as light.I have also used solar lights and low voltage garden lights. My advice is to keep the lantern and lighting simple and understated... a flickering low level of light is a subtle amibiance compared to overpowering megawatt floodlights.

Japanese-Garden-Lanterns . The KASUGA Style

There are many styles of Japanese-Garden-Lanterns derived from the Buddhist temples or the Masters of the Tea Ceremony who gave us the ORIBE,KASUGA,SOWA,ENSHU and RIKYU styles use in their own gardens.

TAIMA_JI is probably the oldest style (8th century)as seen in the photo below of the KASUGA SHRINE in NARA.Today this style of lantern is refered to as the KASUGA or TACHI-GATA lantern. The Kasuga Shrine (founded 768) is located in the Nara Deer Park in Japan about 60km. east of Kyoto,which is home to over one thousand graceful deer, regarded as divine messengers they can be also be very forceful!On my visit my rear end was nudged a few times as the "messangers" message was "have you any food".!!. At KASUGA more than 1,800 lanterns line the shrine pathways with over 1,100 copper and bronze lanterns hanging from the shrines eaves. The Japanese people attend on two festival days per year and try to keep all of the 1,800 stone lanterns glowing by candlelight well into the night as a memorial to the dead.

El cérvol és de veritat! / The deer is real!

The KASUGA lanterns can be anywhere from 1.5 metres to 3 metres tall and nowadays are too big and costly for most normal suburban gardens.See the large lantern below from NARA-SHI again in the NARA Prefecture.

stone lanterns

Japanese-Garden-Lanterns. The YUKIMI-GATA Style.

The YUKIMI-GATA or snow viewing lantern, from the EDO period(late 1500s)is probably the most popular Japanese Garden lantern in gardens today.They are generally small(50cm)but can range up to 3m,have a large roof (KASA) either round,hexagonal or even eight sided and are used with great effect near the edge or land and water.There is also a school of thought that they could have also been used to help mark areas as a small lighthouse for boats.The pictures below shows the typical style with an open leg design.


This is from the PORTLAND Japanese Garden in the USA.


Japanese Garden Lanterns. The ORIBE Style.

The stone ORIBE Japanese Garden lantern was designed by the famous tea master and Samuri Lord FURUTA ORIBE who lived in the mid 1500s(EDO Period). Its square pedestal rises directly out of the ground and these buried base styles (IKEKOMI)are ofen used near the TSUKUBAI or water basin.ORIBE style lanterns are also called "Christian" lanterns based on the folk law story that the early christians (Francis Xavier) practised their religion in secret in Buddhist shrines and temples and some lanterns have been found with supposedly christian markings. The photo below is from the KATSURA PALACE.

21 Katsura rocks.JPG