Traditional lighting equipment of Japan

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The Momiji Matsuri もみじ祭 festival at Hiyoshi Taisha shrine

The traditional lighting equipment of Japan includes the andon (行灯), the bonbori (雪洞), the chōchin (提灯), and the tōrō (灯篭).


An andon
Andon in the bedroom. by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

The andon (行灯) is a lamp consisting of paper stretched over a frame of bamboo, wood or metal. The paper protected the flame from the wind. Burning oil in a stone or ceramic holder, with a wick of cotton, provided the light. Rapeseed oil was popular. Candles were also used, but their higher price made them less popular. A lower-priced alternative was sardine oil.

The andon became popular in the Edo period. Early on, the andon was handheld; it could also be placed on a stand or hung on a wall. The okiandon was most common indoors. Many had a vertical box shape, with an inner stand for the light. Some had a drawer on the bottom to facilitate refilling and lighting. A handle on top made it portable. A variety was the Enshū andon. One explanation attributes it to Kobori Enshu, who lived in the late Azuchi-Momoyama Period and early Edo period. Tubular in shape, it had an opening instead of a drawer. Another variety was the Ariake andon, a bedside lamp. The kakeandon under the eaves of a shop, often bearing the name of the merchant, was a common sight in the towns.

The expression hiru andon, or "daytime lamp," meant someone or something that seemed to serve no purpose. In dramatizations of the story of the forty-seven ronin, Oishi Yoshio is often given this description.


The bonbori (ぼんぼり・雪洞) is a kind of Japanese paper lamp used in the open. It normally has an hexagonal profile and is used during festivals.[1] It can either hang from a wire or stand on a pole. Famous is the Bonbori Festival (ぼんぼり祭り, Bonbori Matsuri), held annually at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū in Kamakura, Kanagawa. Artists paint on the about 400 bonbori erected for the occasion on the shrine's grounds.[2]


The chōchin (提灯) has a frame of split bamboo wound in a spiral. Paper or silk protect the flame from wind. The spiral structure permits it to be collapsed into the basket at the bottom. The chōchin hangs from a hook at the top. In present-day Japan, plastic chōchin with electric bulbs are produced as novelties, souvenirs, and for matsuri and events. The earliest record of a chōchin dates to 1085, and one appears in a 1536 illustration.

The akachōchin, or red lantern, marks an izakaya.


Originally used in the broad sense to mean any lantern, the word tōrō came to mean a lamp of stone, bronze, iron, wood, or another heavy material. These illuminate the grounds of Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, Japanese gardens, and other places that include tradition in their decor. The earlier oil and candles have given way to the electric bulb.



  1. ^ Iwanami Kōjien (広辞苑) Japanese dictionary, 6th Edition (2008), DVD version
  2. ^ "Bonbori Matsuri". Retrieved 8 August 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "Tankei And Teshoku". 茶の日. Chanobi. 2 January 2017.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Japanese gardening, Lanterns. Accessed on February 2, 2010