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What is a Japanese Lantern?

Ken Black
Ken Black

A Japanese lantern is a lantern that is made of colored, porous and semi-translucent paper that is often used for decorative purposes. In rare cases, the term can also also be used to describe a number of permanent lanterns often elaborately decorated in a design reminiscent of Japanese architecture. The terms Japanese lantern and Chinese lantern are often used interchangeably, though there are differences. Although they can be bought, many people prefer to make Japanese lanterns.

A Japanese lantern is a paper lantern in most cases, but may have some silk in it as well. In some cases, the entire lantern may be made of silk. This is usually not the case with Chinese lanterns. A Japanese lantern will also carry designs on it that express something about the culture, if it has designs on it at all. This is also true of the Chinese lantern and the Chinese culture. While it is true that most Westerners will not notice a difference, many from that region of the world would take exception to the way the names are sometimes interchanged.

Woman posing
Woman posing

The main purpose of the Japanese lantern is to serve as decorations at parties that have an Oriental theme. They are especially impressive in outdoors settings. Due to their composition as nothing but paper, they can usually be obtained very reasonably from stores that sell party favors. They come in all shapes and sizes.

The Japanese paper lantern is lit from the inside usually by an electrical bulb with a small wattage. The light does not need to be very powerful to make the lantern have a good "glow." In fact, a small wattage light is much better than brighter lights simply because the user does not want the light to overpower or wash out with light the design and features present in the lantern.

Most Japanese lanterns will be placed on cord with light bulbs placed every so often along the cord. There may be a light bulb, for example every 12 inches (30 cm) along the cord. Depending on how big the lantern is, there may be even wider gaps between the lanterns. Some lanterns are made to be used with battery packs so that cords are not needed.

The materials needed in order to make a paper lantern are relatively simple: a pair of scissors, glue or a stapler, and of course, some brightly colored paper. The rest involves cutting, folding, and attaching a handle, as well as perhaps personalizing it with some of your own design work.

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