Create Washi Paper Lamps with a Yamaga Lantern Craftsperson (2hrs)
The history of the Yamaga Toro lantern-making craft stretches back over 600 years. Originating from Yamaga City, Kumamoto Prefecture, these lanterns are made entirely of handmade washi paper and small amounts of glue, without any wooden or metal fittings. Yamaga Toro craftspeople are called toroshi, and undergo rigorous training to obtain such a title. In addition to lanterns, toroshi use Yamaga Toro techniques to create paper models of buildings such as Shinto shrines and castles; these sculptures are then used as religious offerings during the annual Yamaga Lantern Festival.In this program, first learn about the craft’s history through a visit to the Yamaga Lantern Folk Craft Museum guided by toroshi Junya Nakamura. Afterwards, head to his workshop (Nakamura Seisakusho) to watch a lantern-making demonstration from the craftsperson himself. Finally, use the unique techniques of Yamaga Toro to create your very own paper lamp, modeled after the top part of a Yamaga Golden Lantern called the giboshu.
- ● Immerse yourself in the history of Yamaga Toro through explanations and stories from practicing toroshi lantern craftspeople
- ● Visit a toroshi workshop to see the process of lantern-making up close
- ● Learn Yamaga Toro lantern-making techniques directly from artisans themselves
- ● Explore other traditional crafts of Yamaga (such as bamboo work, silk and ceramics) at Yamanote, a store on the first floor of Nakamura’s workshop
- ● Browse and purchase Yamaga’s handcrafts from the Yamanote shop after the tour experience
- ● Get personalized food and sightseeing recommendations
Retracing the Historical Yamaga-Buzen Kaido Road: Sake Breweries, Hot Springs, Theatres, and More
Located in the northern part of Kumamoto Prefecture, Yamaga once prospered as an Edo period post station (shukuba) and shipping hub along the Kikuchi River, leading to the development of a unique regional culture. The Buzen Kaido road, which stretches from the riverbanks of the Kikuchi to Yamanote, is full of historical attractions — including the Chiyo no Sono Sake Brewery (since 1896), the koji rice malt specialty store Kiya Honten (since 1830), the Sakura-yu hot springs, where Edo period feudal lords used to rewind and beloved bath of the famous swordsman Musashi Miyamoto, and the Meiji-era Yachiyoza Theatre.
Yamaga Toro and the Yamaga Lantern Festival
The Yamaga Lantern Festival is held every August. The festival is famous for the Sennin Toro Odori — a dance performed by 1,000 women wearing Yamaga Golden Lanterns on their heads. But the festival’s main attractions are “votive lanterns,” elaborate paper replicas of shrines and traditional Japanese-style buildings. Toroshi make about 30 such lanterns each year, commissioned by the various districts of Yamaga and sake breweries. These are offered to Omiya Shrine with the call of “Hai Tourou!” and are then displayed in the shrine’s Toro Room for one year.
Yamaga’s Handicrafts in One Place: Yamanote
Since ancient times, the abundant natural resources of Yamaga have been used to create handicrafts such as washi paper, uchiwa umbrellas, silk products, and bamboo crafts. Located on the historical Buzen Kaido road in Yamaga, Yamanote offers a wide selection of such local handmade works. The shop owner, Misato, offers a wealth of knowledge about local history; she’s the perfect person to ask, not just for information about Yamaga’s past and handicrafts, but also for the best restaurants and places to visit in town. Yamanote also sells mobiles, aroma diffusers, and other products made with the techniques of the Yamaga Toro craft but designed to fit into modern lifestyles.
An Up-Close Look at Lantern-Making Inside a Toroshi Workshop
At Junya Nakamura’s workshop, located on the 2nd floor of Yamanote, you will have a chance to see the lantern craftsman’s techniques and skills up-close. The work is breathtakingly detailed: the use of bugami to mark where to cut, the technique of curving washi with a small wooden stick, and koguchizuke, a method of joining paper to paper directly on its edges, and more.
Make Your Very Own Giboshu Lantern
Together with Junya Nakamura, craft your very own paper lamp inspired by the top part of a Yamaga Golden Lantern, the giboshu. Choose your favorite washi paper designs cut out in advance, and learn Yamaga Toro techniques such as koguchizuke (connecting paper directly by their edges) and the technique of creating curves on flat paper.
Discount Ticket for Complimentary Admission Included!
This tour includes a ticket that can be used for free admission to the Yamaga Lantern Folk Craft Museum and Yachiyoza Theatre, and is also valid for a 100 yen discount on entry to Sakura-yu, the hot spring beloved by Edo period swordsman Musashi Miyamoto. Please pick up the ticket at the Yamanote shop between 11:00-17:00, Thursday through Sunday.
* After the tour program, participants can also visit the Hyakkado art gallery, located in a 150 year-old renovated townhouse next to the Yamanote shop, and Omiya Shrine, which displays about 30 different Yamaga Toro sculptures dedicated in the annual Yamaga Lantern Festival (open from 8:00 ~ 16:30, entrance to the Toro Exhibition Room requires an additional 200 yen admission fee). Plus just a one minute walk from Yamanote is the metro guesthouse&cafe, a guesthouse located in a renovated 120-year-old traditional Japanese house.
Japanese●Supplementary explanations in English via translation device or lecture board can be provided upon request. Please make a note in the message box during registration to request this service.※An English interpreter can also be arranged for an additional fee. Please contact UNA Laboratories for more details.
Minimum 2 / Maximum 4
7 days before the start of the tour (for example, please apply by October 3th for a tour that starts on October 10th)
Advance payment at the time of reservation (VISA, Mastercard, Amex, JCB)
|Note about Tour Conductors||
There will be no tour guide accompanying this program. Customers are responsible for managing their own itineraries.
3 to 1 day(s) preceding the tour start date: 50% of the tour fee
Travel Planning: Implementation
- UNA Laboratories Inc. (Fukuoka Prefectural Governor Registration #2-951)
- 3-12-22-302 Yakuin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture 810-0022
- TEL: 092-982-7956E-MAIL: email@example.com
- Domestic Certified Travel Supervisors:
Aya Tamura, Noriko Yahata, Rei Watanabe
- Business Hours:
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday (Closed Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays)
- *Requests received outside of business hours will be processed the following business day.
- *Domestic Certified Travel Supervisors are responsible for transactions held at the sales office that processes customers’ travel. Please do not hesitate to contact the aforementioned Domestic Certified Travel Supervisors with any questions or concerns regarding the travel contract.
- Fri, Sat 13:00~
※The tour will not be held on dates marked with (-) on the reservation form.
- 2 hours
- Recommended Age
- Lantern Making Workshop: 11+ (for those 10 and under, please inquire for more details about participation)
Workshop and Museum Tour: all ages
- 5,800yen (tax included)
- ※material fee included
※For guests under 15, the program price is 5,300 yen (incl. tax and material fee). For those under 10, the studio tour is free. However, guests under 10 generally cannot participate in the lantern making experience (please inquire if interested).