Inside the Nitobe Memorial Garden there are several lanterns found along the path that each serve as different representations of Nitobe Inazō’s life. While they fulfill this role of being symbolical to Nitobe, gardener Ryo Sugiyama says that lanterns have traditionally served a purpose in the garden to “symbolically light pathway” and “cast a beam of light across water”.

Originating from China and Korea, garden lanterns were originally used in Japan to light the way for worshippers at temples and shrines at night. Around the end of the 14th century though, they began to appear within Japanese gardens. There are four styles of lanterns, all of which can be found within Nitobe Garden.

The first style is the kasuga. This is considered the standard lantern of the Japanese garden, and originates from the lanterns found at Kasuga Shrine in Nara. Often hexagonal in shape, it is described as being tall and strong with an imposing presence. An example within the Nitobe Garden is the Nitobe Memorial Lantern. Moving towards the right after entering the garden, it is the first lantern along the path (as well as the largest lantern in the garden). Serving as a memorial for the life of Nitobe, it is also known as the father lantern, representing both the male principle and father figure.

The second type is the yukimi, or snow-viewing lantern. Often set at the water’s edge, this lantern is described as low with no post, resting instead on three to four legs that arch outward from the base, allowing the lantern to illuminate the water’s surface. The broad roof is designed to direct light downwards toward the water, enhancing the beauty of the waterscape. An example within Nitobe would be the Mother Lantern (representing the mother figure) set on the Island of Eternity at the water’s edge.

The third lantern is the misaki. This small lantern is often placed on the edge of a peninsula or pond, and resembles the form of the yukimi, but without legs. Symbolizing a lighthouse on a cape, this lantern represents the presence of the ocean in the garden. Moving further down the path past the Nitobe Memorial Lantern, this type of lantern can be seen on the streambed section between the split paths.

The final lantern is the oribe, which are often found in tea gardens. Square shaped, it is described as having no foundation stone, instead sitting on a stabilizing post planted in the ground. This lantern also has a form known as the Christian lantern, and one example in the garden near the teahouse called the Remembering Lantern is meant to commemorate Nitobe’s Christian faith.


Works Cited

Sugiyama, Ryo. The conventions of Japanese gardens. February 24, 2016.

Sawano, Takashi. Creating Your Own Japanese Garden. Japan Publications Trading, 1999. P.23

Goto, Seiko, and Takahiro Naka. Japanese Gardens: Symbolism and Design. Routledge, 2015. P.72-73

“Symbolism Of Lanterns.” UBC Botanical Garden. Accessed March 01, 2016.


Contributor: Magdalena Machula