Stone Lanterns, Basins and Ornaments
Stone lanterns are important icons of Japanese gardens. While most designers agree that it is not good to use too many “adornments”, properly placed lanterns, markers, and basins are highly valued in a Japanese garden. We will start with a few popular lantern styles and build from there as resources are available.
Japanese Stone Lantern photos by K.T. Cannon-Eger and Bill Eger Use arrows to browse images, or click photo for full screen slide show.
Oribe lantern – 織部灯籠 – This is a type of lantern designed specifically for garden use by Lord Furuta Oribe (1544-1615). It has no foundation stone, but sits on a square pedestal (sao) planted into the ground for stability. This is the characteristic of the “buried base” group of stone lanterns known as “ikekomi”. The square light box (hibukuro) sits on a square central platform (chudai) with a tapered bottom. It has square front and rear openings sometimes covered with shoji. The right and left openings are a crescent moon and full moon shape respectively. It is usually lighted by a candle or small oil lamp. The light box is covered by a 4-sided, sloped stone roof (kasa), and crowned by a knob-like jewel (houju) resembling a lotus bud.
Yukimi doro 織部灯籠 – Sometimes called “Snow-viewing Lantern”. The exact origins of the Yukimi Stone Lantern are not known for sure, but it is generally thought to be from the Edo period (1600s). It is believed to have been used to mark peninsular landmasses for boaters.
Although “Yukimi” is the Japanese custom of “snow-viewing”, the original Japanese character describing this lantern may have meant ”floating light”. The customary placement is at the edge of land and water – in the case of a three-legged lantern, one leg on land and the other two in the water. If this lantern were used to indicate the tide, the wide brim would cast light across the water and reflect the light to its base, showing the water level and indicating safe port or landing site for boats.
Mizubotaru toro 水蛍燈籠 – Also known as “Mizu Hotaru”, this is the WATER FIREFLY LANTERN . The glow of fireflies reflecting in the garden waters at night inspired this lantern. It is usually placed next to the water on the opposite side to provide the firefly reflections to the viewer.
The name may have originated from the famous Japanese novel, The Tale of Genji (『源氏物語』) by Lady Murasaki. Another story claims Prince Yakahito saw the reflection in the waters of Katsura Rikyu and mistakenly thought it was a group of fireflies over the water.
It is another “Ikekomi” type lantern, its round base planted in the ground. The light box is square with square openings on the sides and double triangle windows on the front and back. It is covered with an unusually shaped roof.
Sankou doro 三光灯籠 - Also called "Sankou tourou", it is named "Three Lights" for the three openings in the shapes of sun, moon and stars. It is a small lantern that can be moved ("Oki-doro" type) if desired. The light box is a hollowed rectangular box with sun and...
Oki-doro or Portable Lanterns are small and light enough to be moved if desired. The Sankou-doro is one example. See examples of other Oki-doro below: Akari Oki-doro Hakkaku Oki-doro Kaori-ji Oki-doro Kusaya Oki-doro Misaki Oki-doro Rokkaku Oki-doro Sunshoan...
Elliot Mitchnick discusses the design and construction of the Tsukubai, the traditional place of ritual cleansing in the inner Japanese Tea garden. If you have Japanese enabled on your browser, you will see most terms with their kanji. In addition, most terms have...