Monday, May 03, 2010

Japanese Stone Lantern typically found in gardens and shrines

Japanese Lantern
Originally uploaded by MeraM
The stone lantern was introduced to Japan at the same time as Buddhism, in the 6th century, says

The ishidoro (literally "stone lantern") is the most common type, gracing gardens, temples and shrines throughout Japan even today.

Typically made of granite or syenite, ishidoro come in many different sizes and shapes, but common to them all is a hollowed upper part, made to hold electric lights, candles, or oil lamps, lighted on special occasions.

The 2,000 ishidoro that line the approach to the Kasuga Shrine in Nara (see below photo) are perhaps the most well-known in Japan. They are lighted twice a year, for the lantern festivals held in February and August.

Secular use of the ishidoro did not begin in Japan until the 16th century, when tea ceremony masters began to use them to decorate their tea gardens. Today Ishidoro are a common feature of many private gardens throughout Japan. Sanskrit letters or Buddhist icons/scriptures are typically engraved on the ishidoro.