Searching all of Japan for handcrafted items that express its heart and soul, our proprietor, KASHIYUKA, presents things that bring a bit of luxury to everyday life. This was her encounter with a lantern made of washi paper, produced in an area once known as “Iyo no Kuni” in Ehime prefecture. This beautiful “supporting actor”, as it’s thought of, has had a role in seasonal festivals, adorning procession floats and shrines for as far back as two centuries.
I love Japanese traditional festivals. We all join at the same place, same time, against the same backdrop, and share a very special kind of good will and enthusiasm. The special attire and ornamentation just add to the fun, if you know what I mean.
The Iyo Chōchin I encountered in Saijo, Ehime, is one such adornment. It’s a gorgeous, handcrafted object that’s played a supporting role in the Saijo matsuri since the Edo period.
“In mid-October elaborate portable religious arks and special yatai (floats) are constructed, dedicated to the various shrines for the Saijo matsuri. Our town’s floats have always featured as many as 100 washi-covered chōchin holding burning candles. Sometimes there are more than 130 of these, and so you’d see about 13,000 paper lanterns overall, illuminated from within,” says Mr. Toru Hino of Iyo Chōchin Kōbō, adding his opinion that the number and beauty of these displays represent the best in Japan. Mr. Hino had a career as an engineer in Tokyo, but so loved his hometown’s Saijo matsuri that he returned there at age 46 to become a lantern artisan.