Lantern Painter

A Chochin is a Japanese paper latern which illuminates the surroundings through the paper. Cho means portable, and chin means light so chochin is portable light. This Japanese latern has a very long history starting from about 1501 (Muromachi era). It has been popular in Japan for a long time as an indoor lighting fixture or to put a candle inside and carry it.

Chochin is used in many different aspects of Japanese life. It is used as latern signage at shrines and temples, and at festivals for illumination. In August, during the custom of honoring one’s ancestors at a memorial service (Obon), Chochin is a used as decorated lantern. It is used as a means for the living to respect the dead. Recently, cheap Chochin imports are increasingly available from overseas. Because the designs on the lanterns is now increasingly done by printers, Japanese lantern artist numbers have decreased. Each of Maruya’s lanterns, however, is handmade by rare craftsmen who use the same techniques as ancient times.

Maruya lantern artists specialize in depicting traditional Japanese paintings in their designs. We have continued the ancient techniques and traditions. In addition, we have followed the traditional color scheme. In the Edo period, merchants and townspeople were increasingly choosing elaborate and therefore expensive colors to show their wealth. As part of the policy of frugality, the Shogunate decreed that this more austere and limited color scheme had to be adhered to, and prohibited anything seen as a luxury. The artists nonetheless used the color scheme to come up with beautiful combinations as can be seen from the designs. The limited colors were brown, mouse-color or grey, and indigo. The artists, within this limitation, created subtle shades and enjoyed seeking beauty within the colors. It is said that the phrase used to describe the color scheme “forty-eighty colors of tea (brown) and one hundred mouse-color” came from the many subtle shades that were derived from the limited colors.


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