Mizu Hotaru lantern in Katsura Rikyu in Kyoto

Mizubotaru toro 水蛍燈籠  – Also known as “Mizu Hotaru”, this is the Water Firefly Lantern . The glow of fireflies reflecting in the garden waters at night inspired this lantern. It is usually placed next to the water on the opposite side to provide the firefly reflections to the viewer.

The name may have originated from the famous Japanese novel, The Tale of Genji (『源氏物語』) by Lady Murasaki. Another story claims Prince Yakahito saw the reflection in the waters of Katsura Rikyu and mistakenly thought it was a group of fireflies over the water.

It is another “Ikekomi” type lantern, its round base planted in the ground. The light box is square with square openings on the sides and double triangle windows on the front and back. It is covered with an unusually shaped roof.


Water Firefly lantern at Kumamoto En in San Antonio



A note on Japanese word variations:  The Japanese roma-ji (roman alphabet) word for lantern is “tourou”. This word can be combined with other words to indicate a type or form of lantern. For example, “ishidourou” refers to stone lanterns in general, while “sankoudoro” and “mizubotaru toro” are specific types of stone lantern. In Japanese, it is not uncommon for the first sound of a word to change when combined with other words. “Tourou” may change to “dourou”, “toro” or “doro”, as in the names above. It is a matter of convenience in pronouncing the words. Another example is in the name for water firefly lantern, “mizubotaru”. The two separate words for water and firefly are ” mizu hotaru” (mizu=water, and hotaru=firefly). But if it is considered as one word, it becomes “mizubotaru”. Ho is replaced by Bo when Zu is placed just before Ho.

Don Pylant, 2002