Just one minute from Omicho-ichiba market, the long-established paper lantern shop, Igarashi Chochin Craftshop quietly exists. As a matter of fact, the shop used to produce paper umbrellas as well. Though it was first established during the Meiji era (1868-1912), Haruko Igarashi the owner and heir, is not exactly sure which year it was founded. Until only recently, craftmaking had been considered as men’s work, thus she had never thought of taking over the family business. For many years, she had a job at a company while just helping her family at home.
Her father was an artisan. When he passed away, Ms. Igarashi decided to continue the business for their regular customers. Now her lovely niece Yukiko, who learned Japanese painting at college, joined her to assist in the process.
From selecting good bamboo to papering the shell, it takes a day per lantern. While most paper lanterns’ frames are spiral in form, Kanazawa’s Chochin bamboo frames are all crafted with individually separate loops.
Yukiko was able to demonstrate how to tie all the bamboo together by string. For a 65-cm-high lantern, they utilize 57 bamboo ribs, thus it’s quite sturdy! Once structure is established and covered with paper, they draw traditional patterns or letters in order to amuse people’s eyes. Family emblems are also often requested for drawing. Before festivals or New Year, they are extremely busy fulfilling lantern orders from shrines.
Shirayama Himejinja shrine in Hakusan city, which is well known as the head shrine of Shirayama jinja or Hakusan jinja, loves their work.
Additionally, tea houses in the geisha districts are also counted among their regular customers. In modern times people tend to place electric bulbs inside the lanterns instead of candles to avoid creating a fire hazard.
It’s lovely just to look at the traditional lanterns hanging over the shop window, or you can ask them to quietly observe their amazing working procedure. Please encourage them to continue their work as long as they can!
Yukiko Hori & Haruko Igarashi
The sweet owner Haruko Igarashi (on the right), born as the heir of Igarashi Chochin Craftshop, and her lovely niece Yukiko Hori (on the left), work hard for their customers everyday.