Gifu Chochin were first made by Juzo, a lantern maker in Gifu and the abundant supply of local bamboo and paper contributed greatly to the development of the craft. It seems that lanterns with similar features to those available today were in general circulation around the first half of the 19th century, and while some were used for the Obon festival or Festival of the Dead, others were simply lit to enjoy the coolness of a summer evening.
Intricately made and with an inherent purity of form, the paper or silk shades of the lanterns are decorated with sophisticated and beautifully colorful pictures of flowers, birds, scenery and people. The bamboo strips, which make up the frame, are extremely fine and the paper is very thin. The lanterns are either round or egg shaped. Even today, Obon lanterns are one of the main types of lanterns made along with others used at the Tanabata summer festival. The noryo lanterns are those with which to enjoy the coolness to a hot, humid summer evening, and still others are for decorative purposes.
The shape is tidy and trim, and the craftsmanship is exquisite. The fire box of the lanterns are decorated with elegant and beautiful watercolors. The frame is made of delicate bamboo strips, and the paper is extremely thin. Painted designs feature flowers and birds, landscapes, people, and more. They are made either round or egg-shaped.
How to make
First, the form for the lantern is assembled, and the bamboo strips are wrapped in a spiral pattern following grooves in the form. Next, glue is applied to the bamboo strips, and washi paper or silk is pasted on, and the excess is trimmed off. Pictures are painted on either with a stencil or freehand, and when the lantern dries, it is removed from the form, and rings are attached to the top and bottom, then fittings are attached and the lantern is complete.