Gifu Lanterns

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The Egg shaped lantern is made of thin Japanese paper with candlelight inside, and is a beautiful craftwork item.  It is an important piece that fits in well with many Japanese scenes throughout history. The paper uses the famous Mino-washi, (Mino Japanese paper) produced in Gifu prefecture and the frame is also made from a good quality bamboo harvested in the nearby region. The history records indicate that the local feudal lord of Owari presented Gifu lanterns to the Tokugawa government in the 17th century.

Bamboo strips are constructed to make a tube shape and Japanese paper is pasted around it. There is a tray at the bottom for a candle.  The paper makes the light grow brighter and gives one the ability to see better when walking through dark streets at night. When you place it at the door of your house, it functions as a nice porch light.

The lantern is not heavy and the paper shields the candlelight from being extinguished by winds. Openings of the top and bottom of the lantern help air circulate freely. The paper has cresses, like an accordion, making it easy to store when you are not using it.

Until the 17th century, the lanterns and candles were very expensive. Therefore, they were mainly used for a few occasions such as for religious ceremonies, as lighting accessories on the feet of nobles and samurai, and for police patrols at night. By the first half of the 19th century, mass production of candles became possible, which allowed lanterns to be more accessible among ordinary citizens. It was also the time of a relative calm and stable society where people were able to develop a taste of beauty and elegance. In the latter half of the 19th century, when international commerce began to become more active, the lanterns became popular for their ability to illuminate flowers and other romantic painting.

Gifu Lanterns come in different shapes and designs. But the one with an upside down egg shape and beautiful painting on the lampshade is considered to be the most standard. A Gifu Lantern can be an ideal decorative piece for your home, with or without light inside.

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Photo by Gifu Lantern Cooperative

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