Illuminating the streets of Kyoto with Kojima Shoten
One of the staples of Japan known in western culture are paper lanterns, and for good reason. Paper lanterns bring a beautiful warmth, a sense of peace and safety to the atmosphere. That is difficult to achieve with common lightning.
This is especially remarkable in the streets of Kyoto. A city known for its functional simplicity. Merging modernity with tradition in an undeniable and proficient way. Through the centuries, the paper lantern community of Kyoto perfected its own technique: The “Kyoto Lining”.
There are two types of paper lanterns:
A “paper-framed roller-type lantern” in which bamboo is wound in a spiral, used for special occasions and decoration purposes.
A “Kyo / Gariki paper lantern” made of bamboo circles in parallel that has a stronger durability and is often used outdoors in temples and shrines.
Because it takes a lot of time and effort, mass production is not possible. However, many people love handmade lanterns. Especially ones that are carefully observed, from structure to material selection.
Located in Imakumano Ashinomori Town, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto. Kojima Shoten has driven the “Kyoto Lining” technique into the present, infusing it with technology while maintaining it’s tradition.
Ran by the Kojimas for 10 generations, and founded in the Edo period between 1789 and 1801. Kojima Shoten is one of the most relevant lantern producers in Kyoto. Contributing to the culture and atmosphere of the city in a big way.
The Kojimas, like many craftsmen of Japan, work as a family. At the moment, three generations take part in crafting a lantern. While every member of the family know the complete process, each has mastered a specific part of it.
Shun Kojima, in a very detailed process, works the bone of the lantern. This is the structural foundation, made with bamboo.
“I am not particular about the production area, but I use strong and supple bamboo. If there is no good bamboo, we cannot make a good lantern. The quality of the bamboo is the most important factor.” said Shun.
To create the bone, Shun cuts a section of his carefully selected bamboo. This is cut it into smaller sections measuring 1 millimeter difference in sequence. After that, the bones are rolled up and fitted with the paper. Then, through a process called “Bone winding” perfect circles of bamboo are made. A fishing thread ties the bamboo and connects the bones, finalizing the structure.
The younger brother, Ryo Kojima, specializes in pasting the paper to the bone. The paper, fabricated in Japan, has a specific thickness to the “Kyoto lining” process. This gives the area where the lantern shines a rugged and dignified atmosphere.
Finally, the father, Mamoru Kojima who ran the shop by himself for many years, brands the lamp with a family crest or japanese characters, honoring a tradition that has been passed down for many generations. In recent years there’s been an increased demand of logos and other corporate branding.
Finally, frames are placed on the top and bottom of the lantern to complete it.
The grandfather, still living, oversees the whole process. Infusing expertise and tradition in the work of the younger generations. With his aid, the Kojimas create a beautiful and unique item, full of hand-made warmth unlike any industrial product.
Your own paper lantern
Recently, Kojima Shoten created the Chibi Maru workshop experience. Shun and Ryo Kojima explain the process of making your own lantern and share the history of the Kyo lantern.
After the introduction the paper is selected, pasted, dried and adjusted into the bone. A LED light that replicates the flickering of a candle is placed in it’s interior, making it the perfect memento of Kyoto’s atmosphere.
You can find more information about the workshop and more on their offical website kojima-shouten.jp.