Japanese Metal Lanterns Timeless light keepers and stylish too!

Japanese bronze lantern

Japanese Metal Lanterns 青銅塘路

Japanese bronze lanterns, known as seido-toro, and originally used in Buddhist temples, entered Japan from China; however their original roots are part of the traditions of Indian Buddhism. This type of lantern has traditionally played an important role in Asian religious rites, which in early times were generally held under the cover of night.

Japanese Metal Lanterns at Kasuga Taisha, Nara.

Metal Lanterns at Kasuga Taisha, Nara


Seido-toro lanterns first appeared in Japan in the Nara Period (645-794). The oldest bronze lantern in Japan is prominently positioned in front of Nara’s Todai-ji Temple, home of the largest bronze Buddha statue in the world.

This impressive eight-sided lantern, which is nearly five meters high, has panels depicting lions running through a background of clouds alongside Buddhist saints playing bamboo flutes.

At the beginning of the Nara Period as China’s influence on Japanese civilization rapidly increased, native Japanese Shintoism began to incorporate many aspects of Buddhism, blending them with their own rituals to produce ceremonies that symbolized the changing times.

Bronze lanterns became an important part of Shinto shrines most likely due to the fact that primitive Shinto beliefs are strongly connected with darkness and light. Nara’s Kasuga Shrine, in particular, is well-known for its 1,000 elegant hanging bronze lanterns, which are lit during special rituals in February and August.

Japanese Metal Lanterns; Kasuga Taisha in Nara is a UNESCO World Heritage Listed Site © Eddie Smolyansky

Kasuga Taisha in Nara is a UNESCO World Heritage Listed Site © Eddie Smolyansky

During the Heian Period (794-1185), the use of metal lanterns gradually became a decorative as well as a spiritual part of imperial and aristocratic residences. In later centuries it became a fashionable practice to give bronze lanterns as a votive offering to shrines or temples when praying for military victory or personal spiritual favors.

Modern Settings

Antique bronze and iron lanterns can easily be incorporated into modern indoor and outdoor settings as unique decorative objects. They are most impressive when used with candles, or with low wattage incandescent bulbs.

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