from the collection of the Kumamoto Prefectural Traditional Crafts Center

By Tachibana Museum

By: Kumamoto Prefectural Traditional Crafts Center

Yamaga LanternTachibana Museum


Originating in the Yamaga region of Kumamoto, this delicate lantern is crafted entirely from paper. Styled after traditional metal lanterns, the paper lantern has been a specialty of the Yamaga region for 600 years. Although it appears heavy, it consists only of paper and glue, and is quite light and delicate. Larger versions are dedicated to local Shinto shrines, and woman wear lanterns like this one on their heads when they dance in the Yamaga Lantern Festival in mid-August.

Yamaga LanternTachibana Museum

Characteristics of Yamaga Lanterns

Yamaga Lanterns are a traditional product, which consist only of glue and Japanese paper (washi) made from local mulberries without wood or nails.

They have taken various forms, from the famous "Kana-dourou" (the original gold lantern) down to the Miya-zukuri (shrine), the Shinden-zukuri (palace), the Zashiki-zukuri (home) and the Shiro-zukuri (castle). Everything is made by hand. From the pillar to the frame, every single piece of this item is made of Japanese paper (washi). All the parts are constructed with glue and washi in assembly-line fashion.

Parts for Yamaga lanternTachibana Museum

They are made wholly of Japanese paper and a small amount of glue. No wood or metal are used.

inside partTachibana Museum

The inside part is kept empty to make it astonishingly light.

pasteTachibana Museum

Yamaga Lantern are miniaturized versions of actual lanterns. The size is adjusted horizontally and vertically to enhance its sophistication.

cutTachibana Museum

Cut and divide them using a paper pattern.

buildTachibana Museum

Paste and construct each part.

giboshi partTachibana Museum

Make six sides for the onion-shaped dome.
These papers are cut on an incline so they can be glued together more smoothly.

giboshi partTachibana Museum

Each part is glued together with rice paste.
The giboshi part (an onion-shaped dome ornament found on old Japanese bridges) of the Yamaga lantern is complete.

bracken-shaped partsTachibana Museum

Put each part together with glue.
This photo shows the bracken-shaped parts.

Moreover, the curved parts of the lantern have no tabs for the use of glue. The papers are held together only by folding. Their structural integrity entirely depends upon the skill of each craftsman.

A part of hexagonTachibana Museum

The hexagon part.

Build the center partTachibana Museum

Build the center part.

pasteTachibana Museum

The bracken-shaped parts are meticulously hand crafted so that there are no uncomfortably noticeable imbalances.
Build the light-holding part of the lantern.

Yamaga LanternTachibana Museum

A Yamaga lantern (Kana-dourou), made by traditional methods.

Kana-dourou lantern (one pair)Tachibana Museum


Kana-dourou lantern (single)Tachibana Museum


Thousand lanterns danceTachibana Museum

The Thousand Lantern

Every year on the night of August 16, 1,000 women clad in kimonos of summer cotton, dance with these golden lanterns on their heads.

Miya-zukuri (Kinkaku-ji Temple)Tachibana Museum


Miya-zukuri (Suzaku-mon Gate)Tachibana Museum


Zashiki-zukuri (Residential architecture)Tachibana Museum


Zashiki-zukuri (Residential architecture)Tachibana Museum


Zashiki-zukuri (Residential architecture)Tachibana Museum


Bird cageTachibana Museum


Arrow quiverTachibana Museum


Lantern CraftsmanTachibana Museum

Lantern craftsman

To be a lantern craftsman, special skill and experience are required - a dozen years or more for those with the most expertise. Before they begin production of the lanterns for the August festival, the craftsmen are purified at a festival held at Omiya Shrine in April. Long ago, no women were admitted in the workshop, and products were never allowed to be taken out of the workshop. Furthermore,their know-how was kept confidential and was handed down only to a few appointed craftsmen. Nowadays, even female craftsmen join in the production process, and help maintain the tradition.

Credits: Story

Kumamoto Prefectural Traditional Crafts Center

Curated by
SAKAMOTO Naofumi (Kumamoto Prefectural Traditional Crafts Center)

Source: provided by Yamaga City, Yamagatourou Shinkoukai, Yamaga Lantern Shop NAKASHIMA, Kyushu Research Institute for Cultural Properties Inc.

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.
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