Kyoto Lanterns

Kyo-chochin ーCity Lights Connecting the Pastー

By Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Lifestyle Design Laboratory, Kyoto Women's University

Attention to Making and Materials, Kyoto Lanterns (2019) by Kojima ShotenKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Attention to Making and Materials

Kojima Shoten is an old, established workshop that has been making Kyo-chochin since the Edo period. The entire process is done in the jibari-shiki method, in which everything from the creation of the bamboo frame, the pasting of paper, to the pictorial decoration is done by hand. The product of a time-consuming, labor-intensive process, that Kyo-chochin is characterized by its sturdiness and the rich texture of its materials. As for durability, it can easily last 10 years of kept out of the rain. 

Bamboo, Kyoto Lanterns (2019) by Kojima ShotenKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Production Process

The process starts with the splitting of bamboo, one of the principal materials. The bamboo is measured with a premetric shaku ruler and cut to the desired size.

Splitting the Bamboo, Kyoto Lanterns (2019) by Kojima ShotenKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Splitting the Bamboo

After the bamboo has been made about the right size, the nodes are removed. The bamboo is then split in half and then further split to create the "horizontal bones." The number of bones depends of the size of the lantern. 

Cut the bones of the lantern to a right length, Kyoto lanterns (2019) by Kojima ShotenKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Next using a square, the bones are cut to a predetermined length. The top side of the square has the measurements for the bones on the upper half of the chochin, and on the bottom side the measurements for the bones on the lower half. To improve overall appearance, the upper and lower halves are not symmetrical; rather, the lower half is somewhat smaller than the upper. Consequently, the size and number of bones above and below are different. 

Hoops and Perfect Circles, Kyoto Lanterns (2019) by Kojima ShotenKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Hoops and Perfect Circles

Glue is applied to both ends of the horizontal bones, fixed with Japanese washi paper, and made into a ring. Once the rings are finished, a tool called a honetame is used to provide a rounder form. Since bamboo tends to return to a straight shape, in order to restrain this tendency and produce a nice round form, it is necessary to make the fibers completely flexible. 

Using a mold, Kyoto Lanterns (2019) by Kojima ShotenKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Making Molds (Katagumi)

From 6 to 10 bow-shaped pieces of wood are inserted into a frame called a kagami to create molds. The molds range in size from the large ones 2 meters diameter to the small about 8 cm in diameter. There are approximately 100 types of mold in all. There are groves in the molds to fix them to the bones. When all the bones have been fixed to the mold, strings are used to reinforce the connection between the bones.  

Applying the Paper, Kyoto Lanterns (2019) by Kojima ShotenKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Applying the Paper and Removing the Mold

Using glue made of wheat starch that has been soaked in water, moistened washi paper is applied over the frame. It is one of the characteristics of Kyoto lanterns that since the ribs are flat the paper is easily pasted on. 

Decoration, Kyoto Lanterns (2019) by Kojima ShotenKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Decoration

Once upper and lower frames have been created on the lantern, the final step is decoration (etsuke). A rough sketch is done in pencil, and this is filled out a little at a time with a bush. Using block ink, the final touches are applied by repeatedly overlaying the ink.

Taishi-do, Imakumano Kan'non-ji Temple, Kyoto lanterns (2019) by Lanterns: Kojima shotenKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Lanterns Seen Around Kyoto

Chochin made by Kojima Shoten are dedicated to temples, used in festivals, and more. The two large lanterns seen in front of the Kabuki theater Minami-za are well-known annual products of Kojima Shoten. 

New styles, Kyoto Lanterns (2019) by Kojima ShotenKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

In addition to continuing to making classical Kyo-chochin, Kojima is also creating lanterns with modern designs in a variety of areas, such as for eating and drinking establishments, apprel stores, and various events. Abroad, it is conducting workshops, artistic collaborations, and other innovative activities heretofore unknown. 

Frame, Kyoto Lanterns (2019) by Kojima ShotenKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Passing the Handmade Tradition to the Next Generation

The 9th generation head of Kojima Shoten, Kojima Mamoru, says, "Since my sons have begun taking up new challenges, work has become so much more fun." While carrying on the technical traditions of the past, Kojima Shoten creates new lanterns in keeping with the times and for the future. This is the Kojima style. 

Credits: Story

Information provided & Supported by:
Kojima Shoten

Text and Exhibition created by:
Inoue Chihiro, Kyoto Women's University

Photography by:
Dr Maezaki Shinya, Associate Professor,Kyoto Women's University

Project Directors:
Dr Maezaki Shinya, Associate Professor,Kyoto Women's University

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Made in Japan
A showcase of Japanese crafts and traditions, and the untold stories behind them
View theme
Google apps