Japanese Garden Lanterns: Purpose And Symbolism

Lanterns. Although in use since ancient times, these outdoor features are lately becoming a new exterior decorating trend, in the countries of both Eastern and Western hemispheres. In Australia, more and more homeowners are including lanterns in the design of their gardens to achieve eye-captivating look and to make the outdoor living spaces more comfortable and enjoyable. This is especially true for Asian-inspired gardens, since lanterns represent one of the main elements of Japanese tea gardens.


History of Japanese Garden Lanterns

Firstly introduced in China, garden lanterns were brought in Japan in 600 A.D. Silver and stone lanterns were the first models with a primary and unique use to illuminate Japanese pagodas and temples. This is what the great Buddha requested in those times. Lanterns got their first use in home gardens thanks to the traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. These special occasions were usually held in the evenings and this is how lanterns have become part of the traditional Japanese garden decor. Usually, they are placed near water or along a curve in a path.

What Do Japanese Garden Lanterns Symbolize?

Japanese culture is unique and lanterns as a part of it, represent love, brightness and protection from evil. There are four main types of Japanese garden lanterns. Each holds own significance and history behind.

  • Tachi-Gata – Also called ‘pedestal lanterns’, the tachi-gata lanterns have long pedestal and massive construction. Normally, they have a stylized lotus flower at the top and a flower in Japanese culture is a symbol for growing wealth and career progress. This model of Japanese garden lanterns is also designed with other important elements, thus symbolizes:
  1. Purity;
  2. The birth of Nitobe Inazō (an important figure in Japanese history and culture);
  3. The month of December;
  4. The first (midnight) double-hour of the day.
  • Yukimi-Gata – Also known as “snow viewing” lanterns, because of the beautiful capture of snowfall on the broad roof. The origin of these Japanese lanterns dates back to the Edo era. In Japanese culture and civilization it is thought that Yukimi-Gata lanterns symbolize the cycle of life, particularly the figure of mother. Their other significance is early marriage.
  • Ikekomi-Gata – They come in Оribe style and are also known as ‘remembering lanterns’. As а popular type of Japanese garden lanterns, the Ikekomi-Gata represent Christianity and Japanese Christians. This is why these lanterns usually have a figure of Virgin Mary attached onto their front, which is usually half-exposed. The inventor of Ikekomi-Gata lanterns is the popular Japanese tea master Oribe Furuta.
  • Oki-Gata – The last, but not the least, Oki-Gata lanterns are usually made out of stone and granite, what makes them a perfect fit to any garden design. They symbolize the nature through the concept of finding beauty in the imperfection and the impermanence in the natural world.

Today, all these models of Japanese garden lanterns are widely used as authentic garden décor, enhancing the beauty and adding history and orient to the space. You too can bring the Japаnese spirit into your home with some of these enchanting garden lanterns.