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All about Japanese Lanterns

Stone lanterns from the earliest times have been incorporated into the designs of Japanese gardens. Japanese lanterns were originally introduced by Buddhist architecture from China and Korea in the Asula period (52-645 AD). The first lanterns were originally made of metal and then later carved into granite stone. Japanese stone lanterns were originally used as votive lamps in from of Buddhist temples and in the thirteenth century they began serving the same function at Shinto shrines. The early garden lantern designs were borrowed from temples, but in the sixteenth century with the development of the tea ceremony, tea master Sen-no-Rikkyu began designing lanterns specifically for Japanese garden use. Illuminated at night with oil lamps, the beautifully carved lanterns acted as markers and set the mood as guests were guided through the garden to the tea room. The stone lantern, made primarily of granite became a permanent feature of Japanese garden design.

No longer associated with religion, stone lanterns now serve an ornamental role in the japanese garden. Stone lanterns are usually positioned in the garden to display their beauty and practicality at entrance gates, reflected in a pond or lake, near garden shelters and along garden paths.

Japanese lanterns can be classified into four basic design categories; tachi-gata (pedestal lanterns), ikekomi-gata (buried lanterns), oki-gata (small, set lantern) and yukimi-gata (snow-viewing lanterns).

japanese style burried lantern

Japanese lantern buried style (ikekomi-gata)

Japanese lanterns snow viewing style (yukimi-gata)

Japanese lanterns snow viewing style (yukimi-gata)

Japanese lanterns pedestal style (tachi-gata)

Japanese lanterns pedestal style (tachi-gata)

All Japanese lanterns are designed and made up of individually carved granite sections that make up the entire stone lantern. The picture on the left shows the different components of a Japanese stone lantern.

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