Chochin (堤灯) – Lanterns

Chochin ( 堤灯 ) — pronounced “cho・cheen” — lanterns.  Of course back in the day they were all candlelit.  I have an old one somewhere, one that used a candle.  Years ago, I so often expressed my fascination with them during my stint working at a middle school in rural Hyogo Prefecture that, as part of a “going away” load of gifts given to me by the town and teachers, I was presented with red lantern (akachochin・赤堤灯) with my name written on in in akachochin restaurant style (click the link just provided and look at the top photo, just over the fellow’s shoulder; in that style).  Chochin are, as mentioned, used to advertise restaurants, as store “billboards,” at shrines and temples (often all lined-up, on display, with shrine or temple donors’ names prettily painted on them), for festivals and holidays, or just general, around-town decoration.  Below are just a few of the very many chochin photos I’ve taken over the years.  Most are recently taken, from just the past five or six years and the photo quality varies. Click for larger image.



Okazaki Shrine, Kyoto. 2007.


Todai-ji, Nara. 2008.


Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto. 2008.


や。き。と。り。Restaurant, Tokyo. 2005.


Kabuki Theater, Shi-jo・Kawabata-dori, Kyoto. 2005.


Gift Shop, Kyoto. 2005.


Ryoan-ji Temple, Kyoto. 2010.


Along Marutamachi, at Okazaki Shrine. 2009.


“Akahige” – “Red Beard.” Restaurant on Kiyamachi. Kyoto, 2007.


Fushimi-Inari Taisha, Fushimi. 2008.


Yurakucho “Gahdohshita” restaurant, Tokyo. 2007.


“Takoyaki” (octopus fritters) hole-in-the-wall. Kyoto. 2007.


Gion - Kyoto - Chochin. 2007.

Gion – Kyoto – Chochin. 2007.


Kyo[to] Udon, Soba. Near Heian Shrine. 2003.

Kyo[to] Udon, Soba. Near Heian Shrine. 2003.


Just one more . . .

This is an “old one,” from 2003, out front of Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto –

Restaurant on way to Nanzen-ji Temple, Kyoto. Late Summer, 2003.

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  1. There are so many delightful photos here, but my favorite has to be the one juxtaposing the fellow on the scooter with the array of lanterns. Several of the closeups of the details are nice, too, especially the one at the Kabuki theater. in Kyoto.

    The mention of the candles reminds me of my very youngest years. At least once and maybe twice my Swedish family had real candles on the Christmas tree. Then, common sense prevailed and we went electric. I suspect my parents had a hand in that.

      • letsjapan
      • October 21st, 2012

      Thanks much, for visiting and commenting. I really enjoy getting feedback on these posts. Yes, when one is photographing a shape that’s generally spherical or oblong, then getting creative is an enjoyable challenge — close, far, side-on, at an angle, use background to frame or give context, eschew any notion of background in the photo, etc.

      Regarding candles – yes, good policy you mention!

      Kind everything,


  2. A really beautiful collection of chochin!
    Thanks for sharing! ^-^

      • letsjapan
      • October 21st, 2012

      And thank you for visiting!

      Stop by any time — various galleries, (oh-so-very-true) stories, or if you’re ever just looking for something, try the Search thingy sort of down and to the right: likely as not, something’ll come up.

      Cheers / 乾杯 !


      P.S. — O.K., so “The Godzilla Interview” is not exactly non-fiction. But all the others (Stories Tab, check it out) are every-syllable-true.

  3. great photos!

      • letsjapan
      • October 24th, 2012

      Thanks so much. And thanks for stopping by. Drop me a line any time (email’s at the end of my “About” page). Oh, and I’ll be visiting your website, too.


  4. Mmmmm. Nice, R. As always.

  5. Beautiful shots of the Chochin. I love these lanterns and the use of them in Japan. They of course look nicer at night, but also look impressive in natural light :).

  6. I love all these photos! Just come back from a trip to Japan and fell in love with the lanterns, now doing a uni assignment on them. Helpful to know what they are actually all used for these days!

      • letsjapan
      • December 14th, 2012

      Thanks, Georgie, for stopping by. You help remind me of a (if not “the”) baseline mission of this site, of why I started and maintain it: to share little pieces of “my” Japan with those who’ve not yet been and who may never get to Japan *and* to give those who’ve lived or traveled to Japan a reminder here and there, to jumpstart a pleasant moment or memory.

      I think that I’ve covered enough topics (though I’ve still a very long way to go) to where if you have further research or natsukashii (poorly translated as “nostalgic”) needs, you’ll have a decent shot at serving them (at least in part) by using the Search function found a little ways down-screen on the right hand side of the page. I invite you, everybody, to check it out.

      Kind regards and much thanks to you,

      R. Newton

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