Ishi-doro

Ishi-doro or stone lanterns can be seen all across Japan. Its upper part is hollow. A candle, bulb or oil lamp is put inside. Like so many things in Japanese society they arrived from China. According to experts first lanterns appeared together with the Buddhism in the 6th century. First they were used in religious objects. In 1500s they first appeared in tea gardens.

Ishi-doro in Kasuga Shrine, Nara
Ishi-doro in Kasuga Shrine, Nara

Probably the most beautiful ishi-doro lanterns are those in the Kasuga Shrine (Kasuga-taisha) located in the city of Nara. There are 2,000 lanterns along the path leading to the shrine. There you can also see 1,000 bronze hanging lanterns.

These stone and bronze lanterns are lit only twice a year. Between 2nd and 4th of February lanterns are lit as part of Setsubun Mantoro festival. Obon Mantoro festival which is held on the 15th and 16th of August is the second occasion for experiencing the beauty of the Kasuga shrine lanterns.