【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】 ~Gifu Lanterns (Gifu Prefecture)~

【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】 ~Gifu Lanterns (Gifu Prefecture)~


Gifu lanterns



【Production area of Gifu lanterns】

Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture



【What is Gifu lanterns?】

Gifu lanterns are produced in Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture, and have a history of about 400 years. (There are various theories)

When you think of lanterns, many people may think of “Bon lanterns” that are decorated to welcome the deceased during the Obon season.

Nowadays, more and more people are using it as an interior decoration such as indoor lighting.


There are mainly the following two types.

・The hanging, pot-shaped “Gosho lanterns” (also called Gifu lanterns)

・”Ouchi Lantern” which has legs and is a standing type


In addition, there is also the Gotenmaru, which is wider than the Gifu lanterns and round in shape.


In April 1995, it was designated as a traditional craft.



【Features of Gifu lanterns】

The main features are as follows.

・Mino Japanese paper, which is also a traditional craft, is used as a material.

・Delicate and beautiful painting of autumn grasses, birds, landscapes, etc.


Mino Washi is known for being thin, even and durable.

In addition, we use extremely thin bamboo strips, which is one of the materials.

“Thin paper”, “extra-thin strips of bamboo” and “delicate and elegant painting” are the trinity of lanterns that continue to fascinate people.



【History of Gifu lanterns】

Gifu City is close to Mino City, which is famous for high-quality Japanese paper called Mino Washi, and was also a production area for bamboo.

As a result, other traditional crafts such as “Gifu Japanese umbrellas” and “Gifu fans” have developed.


There are various theories about the origin of Gifu lanterns, one of which is that they began to be made in the 16th century.

In the book “Gifu Shiryaku”, it is written that it was first presented to the Shogunate during the time of Iemitsu, the third shogun of the Edo Shogunate.


Another theory is that around 1751 to 1763, Gifu lantern maker Juzo made lanterns and presented them to the Owari clan.


Gifu lanterns were also distributed to the general public, but perhaps because they were high-end items that were presented to the shogunate, they were not produced enough to be sold in Japan.


It was in 1878 that Gifu lanterns came into the limelight.

Emperor Meiji made a tour of the Hokuriku Tokai region and stayed in Gifu.

At that time, Gifu lanterns caught the attention of the emperor, and the name became known throughout Japan.



【Production process of Gifu lanterns】

①Dosa pulling

Dosa is a liquid made by mixing glue with alum dissolved in water.

This dosa is applied to Japanese paper, but there are two main effects that are aimed at.

・Add stiffness and luster to Japanese paper

・Prevents bleeding when applying pigment in the post-process


When coloring washi paper, craftsmen apply a light background color called “Jiirobiki”.



referring source:Ozeki Jishichi


The area covered with Japanese paper that is lit by the lanterns is called the firebox.

A craftsman called a surikomi-shi rubs a picture onto the washi paper that is put on the firebox.


Follow the steps below.

・Make a woodcut based on the original drawing drawn by the artist, and draw the outline.

・Craftsman creates a paper pattern that removes only the parts that they wants to color, and rubs in the color.

・Depending on the pattern, there are parts where colors overlap, so rub it in repeatedly so that it looks like the original.


A craftsman needs as many pattern papers as the number of rubbings, and sometimes more than 100 sheets.

In addition, this rubbing is one of the characteristics of Gifu lanterns.


③Muzzle and Teita making

This is the process performed by the woodturner.

Make the “muzzle”, “teita”, and “legs” in the case of Ouchi Lantern.


※Muzzle → A ring attached to the top and bottom of a lantern. It is made by laminating thin boards of cypress and cedar.

※Teita → board used for hanging lanterns



Decorations are applied to the muzzle and Teita made in the previous process.

Examples of techniques used are:



A technique in which gold or silver metal powder is sprinkled after painting.



A technique in which white paint made from shellfish such as oysters and scallops is used and painted repeatedly to create a three-dimensional effect.


⑤Lantern model set, bamboo string winding

referring source:Ozeki Jishichi


Follow the steps below.


・Combine the dildo to make the prototype of the lantern.

(Depending on the size, there will be differences such as 6 dildos and 10 dildos.)


referring source:Ozeki Jishichi


・After inserting the strip of bamboo into the hole in the dildo and fixing it, the strip of bamboo is spirally wound along the groove carved into the dildo.

・Finally, attach the strips of bamboo to the holes in the dildo.


The thickness of the strips of bamboo used to make Gifu lanterns is less than 1mm, so it requires a very high level of skill and technique.



referring source:Ozeki Jishichi


Follow the steps below.


・In order to prevent “stretching the lantern too much” and “breaking the paper”, the craftsman performs “thread guard” to thread the bamboo strips.

・”Koshibari” is performed by attaching thin paper to the 4 to 5 bamboo strips from the upper and lower muzzles.

(Work to reinforce this part because it is most easily damaged)

・Apply glue made by refining wheat flour to bamboo strips.

・While stroking with a nadebake, perform “Shitabari” by putting paper on every other space.

・Excess paper is cut with a razor.

・Perform the “Uwabari” where paper is pasted on the rest.


The reason why the paper is pasted by the above method is to make it easier to match the pattern.

Uwabari must be done with care so that the patterns match.

Also, the seams are extremely thin, about 1 mm, and the rest is cut off.

This is because if the seams become thicker, the light will be uneven.



After drying the stretched paper, the dildo is removed.

Once the dildo has been removed, the fire bag is carefully folded with a spatula while making creases.



referring source:Ozeki Jishichi


The painting done here is different from “surikomi”, in that the painter paints directly on the fire box without drafting it.


Because of the strips of bamboo, it has an uneven curved surface, and the positions and colors of the patterns must all be completed and painted on a large number of products.

It is a very time-consuming process that requires not only the skill of the painter but also the skill and experience of the artist.


Finally, the Gifu lanterns are completed after attaching muzzles and Teita that have been made by craftsmen.





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