Sankou Doro or “Three Light” lantern

Sankou doro  三光灯籠 – Also called “Sankou tourou”, it is named “Three Lights” for the three openings in the shapes of sun, moon and stars.

It is a small lantern that can be moved (“Oki-doro” type) if desired. The light box is a hollowed rectangular box with sun and moon-shaped windows on the front and rear, with a “star” window on the end. It is covered with a 4-sided sloped roof stone.

This lantern is usually placed next to the pond to light the way for a boat.

Sankou Doro at Katsura Rikyu in Kyoto



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, 2014