The Stone Lanterns of Seiwa-en

Dotted among flowering cherries and peonies, irises and lotuses, is another crucial landscape element of the Seiwa-en Japanese Garden. Stone lanterns serve both an ornamental and spiritual purpose in Japanese culture. There are 17 lanterns in Seiwa-en, and by design some are easier to spot than others.

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Yukimi Lantern

The garden is home to 2 Yukimi, or snow-viewing, lanterns. Both are believed to be several centuries old, and came to St. Louis for the 1904 World’s Fair. For years both lanterns were used as decorative props during flower shows. One now sits at the entrance to Seiwa-En near the English Woodland Garden.

Snow covers the Yukimi Lantern at the entrance to Seiwa-en in March 2017. (Photo: Suzann Gille)

The other Yukimi Lantern is located near the Drum Bridge. In the historical photos below you can see its many uses before finding a permanent home in the Japanese Garden.

Roji Lantern

There are two of these lanterns in the Japanese Garden, one just across the path from the sacred lotus overlook, the other near the koi bridge. Roji is a Japanese tea garden, or pathway to the tea room.

Rikyu-konomi Lantern

Rikyu is a Japanese historical figure known for his influence on the Japanese tea ceremony. This lantern is tucked under a Japanese Maple near the Plum Viewing Arbor.

Rikyu-konomi Lantern
Rikyu-konomi Lantern with Plum Viewing Arbor in the background

Edo gata Lantern

This describes a style of lantern popular during the Edo period in Japan, roughly from 1603 to 1868. This lantern sits just south of the Earthen Bridge leading to Teahouse Island.

Edogata Lantern
Edogata Lantern (Photo: Karen Fletcher)

Oribe Lantern

This style of lantern was designed by a Japanese nobleman. The firebox has a square opening on opposite sides, while the other two sides have crescent moon and full moon-shaped openings. There are two Oribe lanterns on Teahouse Island. One contains hidden Christian symbols and was used during a time of religious persecution in Japan.

Oribe Lantern
Oribe Lantern in the Teahouse Island courtyard (Photo: Steve Frank)

Maru-yukimi Lantern

This lantern was a gift from St. Louis’ sister city, Suwa, Japan. A delegation from Suwa took part in the groundbreaking ceremony for Seiwa-En in 1974. This snow-viewing style lantern sits on the shore of Teahouse Island, and can best be see from across the lake near the pebble beach.

Kasuga Lantern

The Kasuga lantern’s tall, thin shape is meant to symbolize a crane standing on one leg. The crane is a symbol of longevity in Japan. There are two of these lanterns in Seiwa-en. One can be found in one of the dry gravel gardens near Teahouse Island, the other is near the Waterfall of Tidal Sound in the northwest corner of the Japanese Garden.

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Lopata Lantern

The Lopata lantern is a relatively recent addition to Seiwa-en, having been installed in 1999. The five tiers of the lantern represent earth, water, fire, wind and sky. The rings near the top symbolize the heavens in the Buddhist pantheon.

Lopata Lantern
Lopata Lantern

Mizuhotaru Lantern

This lantern was given in memory of former Garden superintendent George H. Pring and his wife Isabelle. Pring worked at the Garden for 60 years, and even lived on-grounds in a house that once stood not far from this lantern’s present day location, near the Pring Memorial Chrysanthemum Garden. The placement of this lantern is a great example of Meigakure, the principal of hide and reveal. It can be seen when walking the path counter-clockwise, but is largely hidden when approaching from the other direction.

Mizuhotaru Lantern
Mizuhotaru Lantern. The name means ‘water firefly’

Rankei Lantern

The Rankei lantern was designed in the early 19th century, and meant to reach over the water’s edge. This creates a wonderful reflection on the surface of the Japanese Garden lake.

Rankei lantern
Rankei Lantern with Maru-yukimi Lantern in the distance (Photo: Kent Burgess)

Gojuno-to Lantern

Similar in design to the Lopata lantern, this stone tower lantern also has five tiers and nine rings. It is also known as pagoda-style. The lantern provides a focal point for an area of quiet reflection near the western edge of the Japanese Garden.

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Nuresagi Lantern

Nuresagi means ‘wet heron’ in Japanese. The name also applies to a variety of Japanese Maple, describing the buds of this tree as it leafs out in spring. This lantern sits at the entrance to the Drum Bridge.

Nuresagi Lantern
Nuresagi Lantern (Photo: Karen Fletcher)

Kasuga Lantern

The Kasuga lantern is named for the Kasuga Temple near Nara, Japan. This temple is famous for its deer park, thus the reason for the deer carved on its firebox. You’ll find this lantern near the entrance to the George Washington Carver Garden. A second Kasuga lantern sits in the Dry Gravel Garden near Teahouse Island. It is engraved with the image of a crane which is a symbol of longevity.

Unknown Lantern

This Oribe lantern was used as a prop in the Floral Display Hall before being added to the Garden landscape in 2009. It sits on the far side of a knoll near the Pring Memorial Chrysanthemum Garden. When walking on the path, only the top of the lantern is visible.

Unknown Lantern
Unknown Lantern in Seiwa-en



Cassidy Moody, Digital Media Specialist

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