Japan Atlas: Traditional Crafts 
Odawara Chochin


Odawara City, Kanagawa Prefecture

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Portable light convenient for travelling  

Chochin (Japanese lantern) widely used during the Edo period (1603-1869) is portable light that use candle as a light source. Japanese paper is applied to a spiral-shaped coil of finely split bamboo, and rings are fitted to the top and bottom of the Chochin so it can be collapsed and folded flat.  

The person who originated the design lived in Odawara, which is now a city in Kanagawa, the prefecture just south of Tokyo and that is why they are called Odawara Chochin. 

Odawara Chochin have three distinguishing features. It is so small and light that it can be collapsed and put in the bosom of a kimono. It is durable and can be used in rain, mist, or other bad weathers. And it was believed to protect people against evil spirits. Some of the materials for the Chochin are obtained from a holy mountain (Saijoji Temple, Mt. Daiyu) where, according to a legend, a goblin named Tengu lives who is said to be untroubled by evil sprits. 

During the Edo period the night-time was darker than it is today and people had to travel on foot. Odawara Chochin was both useful and psychologically reassuring because of the belief that it protected people against evil spirits. For these reasons, it was widely used, particularly by travelers from the beginning of the 18th century. 

Photo: Odawara Chochin (Japanese lantern) (Odawara City) 

Unauthorized reproduction of the photos in this page is prohibited. 

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