Oribe Lantern at Katsura Rikyu

Oribe lantern – 織部灯籠 – This is a type of lantern designed specifically for garden use by Lord Furuta Oribe (1544-1615). It has no foundation stone, but sits on a square pedestal (sao) planted into the ground for stability. This is the characteristic of the “buried base” group of stone lanterns known as “ikekomi”. The square light box (hibukuro) sits on a square central platform (chudai) with a tapered bottom. It has square front and rear openings sometimes covered with shoji. The right and left openings are a crescent moon and full moon shape respectively. It is usually lighted by a candle or small oil lamp. The light box is covered by a 4-sided, sloped stone roof (kasa), and crowned by a knob-like jewel (houju) resembling a lotus bud.

Lord Oribe was a famous tea master and a practitioner of the Sukiya (or Tea Ceremony) way of life. He studied under Sen No Rikyu whose teachings of the “Way of Tea” profoundly changed its appreciation, and with it the entire culture of the Edo period. Oribe had high appreciation of tea ceremony utensils and has a style of ceramics named after him.

Oribe Lantern at San Antonio’s Kumamoto En

Krishitan doro – キリシタン灯籠 – A form of the Oribe lantern is known as the Christian Lantern (Krishitan doro). Francis Xavier, a Roman Catholic Priest, arrived in Japan in 1549 and with support from Daimyo Oda Nobunaga, began to spread his religion. Nobunaga enjoyed interacting with foreigners and used these missionaries to control the Buddhist priests that opposed him. After his death, his successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi became aware of the expanding power and holdings of the Catholic church and banned Christianity altogether.

The Kakure Kirishitan, or “Hidden Christians” continued to practice their religion in secret, meeting secretly and disguising their religious icons and graves as objects of Buddhist worship. It is thought that this version of Oribe lantern may have the figure of Virgin Mary carved in the buried part of the base, along with the Greek monogram “IHS” (iota-eta-sigma) carved into the cross part of the base below the central platform .

In his writings of Katsura Imperial Villa, Kunihei Wada describes the lantern above as having the figure of “Saint Jizu”, patron of children. This is interesting, as the Chinese origin of Jizu describes a similar life as that of Jesus Christ in his self sacrifice to intervene for the devine salvation of others.

Don Pylant, 2005