【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】 ～Yamaga Lantern (Kumamoto Prefecture)～
2023.01.17 About Japan's Traditional Crafts
【Production area of Yamaga Lantern】
Yamaga City, Kumamoto Prefecture
【What is Yamaga Lantern?】
This refers to lanterns and structures made only of “Japanese paper” and “glue”, produced in and around Yamaga City, Kumamoto Prefecture.
Especially famous is the “Golden Lantern” that women in yukata put on their heads at the “Yamaga Lantern Festival” held on August 15th and 16th every year.
There are also mini-sized structures such as temples and castles that actually exist, and they are all called “toro”.
Lantern craftsmen make lanterns to match the festival.
The rituals and traditional events of the Yamaga Lantern Festival are held at Omiya Shrine, and the lanterns are dedicated at the end.
Then, it will be displayed in the lantern hall of Omiya Shrine for one year until the next year’s festival.
The types of lanterns that are produced are abundant, such as “Shinden-zukuri” and “Shiro-zukuri”, and they are delicate yet have an overwhelming presence.
In December 2013, it was designated as a traditional craft.
【Features of Yamaga Lantern】
The biggest feature is the manufacturing method.
Only Japanese paper and glue are used as materials, and no fasteners such as wood or metal fittings are used.
There are curved parts in the work, but the thickness of the paper is skillfully used to glue them together without using glue.
In this way, props such as scissors and rulers are used, but each process requires the meticulous skills of craftsmen.
Craftsmen add their own dimensions, not just the actual scale ratio, when making the lanterns for the building.
This allows you to feel the power of seeing the real thing right in front of you.
The craftsmanship of the lantern makers expresses a solemn atmosphere and splendor that makes it hard to believe that paper is the only material used.
【History of Yamaga Lantern】
There are various theories about its origin, but the most likely one is around 71 to 130 AD, the era of the 12th emperor, Emperor Keiko.
When the emperors were traveling around Kyushu, they got lost in the Kikuchi River, which flows through Yamaga, due to the thick fog.
It is said that the people of Yamaga, holding torches, welcomed the emperor’s party and brought them safely to Omiya Shrine.
Since then, people have worshiped the emperor at Omiya Shrine and presented lanterns every year.
With the passage of time and the Muromachi period, the lanterns were transformed into golden paper lanterns.
In the Edo period, wealthy people commissioned lantern makers to make even more luxurious lanterns.
There are records that this is how the present-day zashiki-zukuri style and lantern making and offerings for shrines and temples began.
One of the reasons why Yamaga lanterns prospered was that both the raw materials and techniques for making Japanese paper were available.
In terms of raw materials, the Yamaga region cultivated kozo, which is the basis of Japanese paper.
In terms of raw materials, the Yamaga region cultivated paper mulberry, which is the basis of Japanese paper.
In addition, Kiyomasa Kato invited craftsmen named Yoshiharu and Dokei, who are known as the founders of Higo papermaking.
The two of them moved to Yamaga and passed on the techniques of paper making to the residents.
The techniques were passed down to descendants and spread to surrounding areas.
It is believed that the fact that Japanese paper was being actively produced in the Yamaga region also had a great influence on Yamaga lanterns.
【Production process of Yamaga Lantern】
The work of pasting Japanese paper on the back side of the gold and silver ornaments used for the surface of the gold lantern is called “backing”.
A final drying step completes the process.
This is the process of placing walking paper on top of the lantern paper and using a needle to make holes for marking the “cutting line” and “folding line” from above.
In addition, walking paper is a piece of paper on which the dimensions (small holes) of each part are written.
Folding lines are drawn using a spatula called a hotarugai to connect the marks (holes made with a needle) of the cut lines made during Hotsuki（②）.
In addition, it is a process to draw a line with a pencil etc. to mark the cutting line and use it as a guide when cutting.
④Ceiling cutting, bundle pillar cutting, hexagonal cutting
This is the process of cutting the paper along the cutting lines.
At the same time, crease the fold lines to prepare for the post-process.
“Ceiling”, “bundle pillar” and “hexagon” are the names of the parts that make up the lantern.
⑤Paper pattern drawhing
This is the process of copying the shape of the paper pattern onto the lantern paper.
This is done when the lantern has a curved part.
⑥Giboshi cutting, pedestal cutting, light bag cutting, etc.
Cut out each part of the lantern paper along the lines.
※Giboshi：The tip of a gold lantern, which is a symbol of the gold lantern not only in terms of shape but also in terms of manufacturing techniques.
⑦Okiage and Sokuinoritsuke
Okiage is a method of pasting paper without creating a glue margin.
It is used when creating three-dimensional parts that require curves and thickness of paper.
Also, the process of applying glue to the edges of parts is called “Sokuinoritsuke”.
Paste the glued parts and build up the solid.
※Sokuinori：Nori paste made by kneading grains of rice
Koguchitsuke is to attach the glued parts accurately along the curve using tweezers.
Six sheets of lantern paper are used for the giboshi, and they are carefully assembled by Koguchitsuke.
Using each part assembled individually such as the ceiling, it is completed once everything is assembled.
The gold lantern consists of about 200 parts and takes about 3 days to make.
(Manufacturing may take several months depending on the type and size of the lantern.)