A tourou is a traditional lantern made of stone and is placed on both sides of a road leading to the main hall and the entrance to a shrine along with stone-carved guardian dogs. Many stone tourou lanterns have a large firebox in the upper section and a thinner post. The Tourou is lighting made of Japanese paper designed in the image of its shape. Designed by the product designer Shige Hasegawa, the lamp combines the distinct design of the tourou, Japanese paper, and the traditional lantern production method of Gifu for its representation. Native to Gifu, he achieved great success in the United States and Singapore.
His higher perspective of Japanese manufacturing and a great sense of integrity appears in the products he designs. We asked the artisan, Sawaki of Corsoyard, to make handmade Mino washi paper for the Tourou. His friendship with Hasegawa and the mutual respect of each for the other’s production spirit breathed life into this product. The Tourou was manufactured by the major lantern manufacturer of Gifu, Asano Shoten.
This product could not be completed without President Asano’s profound knowledge of artifacts, the staff, and the techniques of traditional craftsmen.
Although the framework of lanterns called higo used to be bamboo in the past, artisans these days use terephthalate resin wrapped with Japanese paper, which can be shaped into delicate, accurate forms. The artisans make spiral-shaped higo sticks to form the shape of the lantern, and experienced female artisans cover each lantern with a piece of Japanese paper. Soft light filtered through the Japanese paper and the line of spiral higo sticks represent the lighting of unmatched beauty. Lanterns like this are unique to Japan and have been used since the Edo period as a handheld andon lamp. They are lightweight and can be compactly folded when not in use.
Soft light filtered through Mino washi paper shows the thin, delicate lines of spiral higo sticks to light up the entire Tourou, and its seamless expression instill transparency and softness to any space. By minimizing the overlapped washi, it creates a sense of oneness with the Tourou.
The current demand for lanterns is mainly for the Bon festival. During the Bon festival, the lanterns are placed on both sides of a Buddhist altar in remembrance of the deceased and ancestors, creating a nostalgic ambiance of summertime in Japan. Although the Japanese practice the custom of Bon to honor their ancestors even now, not many households set up Bon lanterns today.
The Akari, designed by the sculptor Isamu Noguchi, is a masterpiece of lighting that was completed by exploring the different shapes of lanterns.
The Akari showcases the immortal elements of Japanese lighting. When designing lighting with lanterns as the theme, the presence of Akari was too major to ignore. Even so, we wanted to create lanterns with a simple, modern look yet with the simplicity of delicate details. We wanted the lanterns to blend into modern living spaces, not as a special presence. The horizontal line is drawn with numerous higo sticks and the light filtered through finely textured Japanese paper enhances the silence and dignified charm of the Tourou. The external appearance of towering vertically with the volume at the top delivers a strong yet quiet presence similar to tourou lanterns along with dynamism and vibrant impression.