Yame lanters

Yame lanters Yame chochin

Gorgeous ornaments made with gold lacquer
A mysterious light shines from inside the lantern


What is Yame lanters ?

Yame Chochin is a lantern produced in the region surrounding Yame City, Fukuoka Prefecture.
The characteristics of Yame Chochin are the Takebone (bamboo frame) of the Ichijo Rasenshiki method and the Hibukuro (fire box) with beautifully painted flowers, birds and plants. The Ichijo Rasenshiki method uses one long and thin bamboo stick that is wound into a spiral. This method is considered to be the origin of the Bon Chochin (lantern for the Buddhist festival of the dead) today. The Bon Chochin is the main Yame Chochin product and it is placed in front of the Buddhist altar in a family house around the time of the festival of the dead in summer. There are approx. 300 kinds of Yame Chochin, including Sumiyoshi (cylindrical, long and thin), Gotenmaru (round and hanging type), ceremonial lanterns and the lanterns for advertisements.
The Hibukuro where the light is lit is made with thin Yame Tesuki Washi (handmade Japanese paper produced in Yame) or silk that is transparent so this makes Yame Chochin highly and widely valued. The lantern is also referred to as Suzumi Chochin (a cooling lantern).
Bamboo and Japanese paper as well as lacquer and wood produced locally are used in Yame Chochin.


Yame Chochin has approx. 200 years of tradition. Bunemon Aramaki who lived in Fukushima-cho, Yame Gun, Fukuoka Prefecture, made Bachochin (hanging lantern with a name painted on) in 1813 and it is said that the lantern was the origin of Yame Chochin.
It was called Fukushima Chochin then because the lanterns were produced in Fukushima-cho.
Bachochin made by Bunemon Aramaki were the hanging lanterns for places such as cemeteries. The patterns included camellia and peony and they were plainly drawn with a single color. Tahei Yoshinaga who also lived in Fukushima-cho invented the Ichijo Rasen Shiki method and the production method of thin paper, which is used for the Hibukuro, between 1854 and 1859. These inventions caused a revolution in lantern production.
In the Meiji period (1912 – 1926), Ihei Yoshinaga, Tahei Yoshinaga’s younger brother, established the method of Hayagaki (fast drawing). As a result, the production time of lanterns became shorter and the price became more reasonable. Yame Chochin became a product that was exported to overseas countries, including America and England.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Preparing the Higo (bamboo stick) The Hibukuro is produced in this process. The frame of the Hibukuro is made by winding one thin Higo into a spiral shape. A long bamboo stick, the Higo, is made with 12 – 25 bamboo sticks. Each stick is approx. 0.4mm in diameter and approx. 4.5m in length and they are joined to make one thin stick.
  2. 2. Assembling wooden frame The wooden frame is assembled to wind the Higo around in accordance with the size and the shape of the lantern. The wooden frame consists of a croissant-shaped wooden board, which is called the Hane (wing), and the Enban (round disc) to fix the Hane in place. Normally, 8 to 16 Hane are used to make one frame.
  3. 3. Higo Maki (winding the bamboo stick) The Hariwa (pulling rings) are fixed at the top and the bottom of the wooden frame to fasten the assembled frame. One end of the Higo is fixed to the top Hariwa and the Higo is wound around the wooden frame in a spiral along the groove of the Hane down to the bottom Hariwa. When the Higo is wound around the frame, the Kakeito (string) is wound around the Higo to prevent damaging the paper as the lantern expands and contracts. The string is pulled from the top Hariwa to the bottom Hariwa vertically over the Higo. Both ends of the string are fastened at the top and bottom Hariwa.
  4. 4. Pasting of Jiginu (silk) Silk cloth is pasted from the top and bottom Hariwa to the 4th or 5th spiraled frame to reinforce the openings in the lantern.
    Then, the Shofu Nori (starch made with flour protein) is pasted in each area divided by the Kakeito on the bamboo stick with a brush and the Jiginu is pasted on every other area divided by the Kakeito. The Jiginu is pasted on in a slightly slack state.
  5. 5. Seam-cutting of the Jiginu The extra part of the Jiginu, which is pasted on every other area divided by the Kakeito, has to be cut off with a razor leaving a tab of approx. 1mm for the glue.
  6. 6. Dosabiki (coating Japanese paper) The Dosa, which is a solution made from a mixture of burned alum and glue, is coated on the surface of the Hibukuro evenly to prevent the smearing of paints.
  7. 7. Katanuki (removing the lantern from the frame) When the Hibukuro is dried, the wooden frame is disassembled inside the lantern and removed.
  8. 1. Making the base for applying the lacquer Making of the Gawa (the lantern rings) and the Teita (the wooden handle) is explained in this section. The Gawa, which are attached at the top and the bottom of the lantern, are made by a craftsman specialized in making the wooden accessories for lanterns by bending a wooden board by hand. A thread sawing machine is used to cut the Teita from a thick wooden board. The cut piece is filed to make the smooth texture.
  9. 2. Urushi Nuri (applying lacquer) The Nurishi (a craftsman specialized in applying lacquer) applies lacquer with a soft texture twice.
  10. 3. Makie (applying gold lacquer) When the lacquer is dry, the Makieshi draws a sketch for the gold lacquer. Gold and silver powder is applied and the Raden decoration, which is made by pasting mother-of-pearl, is added.
    The painted Hibukuro and the decorated Gawa and Teita are delivered to the Chochin Ya (the lantern shop). The craftsmen who are specialized in assembling lanterns assemble them and add decorations including tassels and metal fittings.

Where to Buy & More Information

Yame Dento Kogeikan

Yame Dento Kogeikan

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