Crafting Bamboo Lanterns for the Waterfall Illumination

Hi, it’s Mineko! It’s been quite a while since I updated this blog. How is everyone doing? It was extremely hot here in Japan during the mid-summer, but thank goodness, it’s getting cooler as the summer is almost over. Temperatures like 38°C were normal here. Some places even hit 40°C. And this year, the effects of the Coronavirus were preventing us from spending summer like we used to. Still, I hope everyone was trying to have fun as much as possible.

Hands-on workshop by craftsmen

Bamboo Lantern Workshop / 竹灯りワークショップ

As a summer project, my son and I participated in a unique workshop to make bamboo lanterns held in Nabari, Mie Prefecture. The bamboo lanterns or bamboo lamps are made by drilling holes through a bamboo tube into your favorite design. And you place a light inside, like a jack-o-lantern.

I was thrilled that I knew the instructors would be “Takesuzume ,” a professional bamboo lantern creator group based in Nabari. Plus, the lanterns we made at this workshop will be displayed at Akame 48 Waterfalls for the autumn-winter illumination. To think of how many people the famous waterfalls attract, we’re very excited!

Nabari’s hidden connection with bamboos

Bamboo Lantern Workshop / 竹灯りワークショップ
Watching a video to learn about the city and bamboo crafting

Before working on bamboo, we learned a little bit about the relationship between Nabari and bamboo crafting. During the Edo Period, Nabari was called “Iga-no-Kuni Nabari,” meaning “Nabari in Iga Province.” The area was ruled by Takayoshi Todo (adopted child of the famous castle architect, Takatora Todo). As Takayoshi was governing Iga-no-Kuni Nabari, a place called “Obata” suffered from heavy rain. Crops were damaged, and people’s lives were at stake. As a solution, the Obata people were solely allowed to make slow matches out of bamboo and sell them. As a result, the people were saved. Even now, the slow match is still being made there and used in “Okera-sai Festival” at Yasaka Shrine , a New Year’s tradition in Kyoto. Obata’s slow match is being used in the famous “Okera-sai”?! Wow! Amazing! I didn’t know any of this until I joined this workshop. I’m glad I signed up for it.

Now, let’s make a bamboo lantern

Each group was assigned to a crafting space with a bamboo tube and an electric drill. The first job we had to do was to pick the design pattern paper to glue onto the bamboo.

Pattern paper / デザイン型紙
Design patterns printed on white paper


They had so many designs that I couldn’t decide at all. I wanted to try all of them! Then it turned out we had a little too many pieces on our tube… I was getting worried. With all these randomly placed white pieces of paper, I couldn‘t imagine this turning into a lantern. I wondered how this would come out when it was done. 

Glueing pattern paper / 型紙を貼る

bamboo with pattern paper / 型紙を貼り終えた竹
This is our design. I had no idea what it was going to look like.


But we must continue!

After the paper dried out, we drilled holes through the bamboo with the electric drill. Designs were made of dots in 3 sizes; small, medium, and large. So I had to change the drill bits according to the dot sizes.

drilling holes in bamboo / 竹に穴を開ける

The more paper pieces we had on the bamboo, the more holes we had to make. We almost ran out of time, but we managed to finish drilling all the holes in time, with a little help from the instructor! Although it was hard for me to use the drill correctly at first, I got used to it by the end of the workshop, thinking of buying an electric drill for myself!

Bamboo lantern in progress / 竹灯り製作中


Now it‘s time to remove the paper. I was wondering how it would look…

Removing the pattern paper / 型紙をはがす


Here it is!
What do you think? I have to admit, I did a pretty good job!

Finished making a Bamboo lantern / 竹灯り完成


The bamboo lantern is lit

A light was placed in the lantern.
So beautiful!

Bamboo lantern / 竹灯り

Bamboo lanters / 竹灯り
Everyone did a great job!

They looked fantastic with warm yellow light glowing out of a lot of dots. I am so excited to imagine how our bamboo lanterns will illuminate the waterfalls at night. It must be breathtakingly gorgeous.


We made it!  / できた!

My son and I enjoyed the workshop more than I had imagined. I signed up for it for my son, but I actually got more into it than him! We are both looking forward to the illumination at the Akame 48 Waterfalls starting in late October.

Akame 48 Waterfalls Bamboo Lantern Illumination
October 24th, 2020 - January 31st, 2021
4:30 pm - 8:00pm
Main venue: Akame 48 Waterfalls (between the entrance and Fudo falls)
Entrance fees: ¥600/adult, ¥300/elementary & middle schooler, free/pre-schooler
Access: A 10-minute bus ride from Kintetsu Akameguchi station. Take the Kintetsu-Osaka line to Akameguchi station (赤目口)
Parking: Available (paid)
Related blog posts:
A visit to Akame 48 Waterfalls Bamboo Lantern Illumination 2020 by Alex Otieno Owino
Sneak Preview: Bamboo Lantern Illumination at Akame 48 Waterfalls by Akiko Hayashi