Photo Essay: Paper Lantern Sculptures in Kyoto image

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On our last night in Kyoto we remembered we’d seen some interesting looking construction going on at our local shrine Kamigamo Jinja, and decided to see if it was finished. We discovered an incredible display of what I describe as paper lantern sculptures, but actually I have no idea what they were or why they had been constructed in the temple grounds.

Our limited Japanese often meant we didn’t understand what was going on, but in this case it didn’t matter. We joined the families and groups of friends who wandered and sat amongst the beautiful creations, amazed at what had been made from just paper and wire.

The paper creations were lit from within and were the only light sources in the dark field, creating a magical, surreal effect.

The skill involved was astounding. This one is an actual working giant pinhole camera.

This rocket changed colour.

This piano was accurately reproduced with all the strings and hammers inside.

I love the Japanese ukiyo-e (woodblock prints) of waves so appreciated this sculpture.

Some were just bizarre. A giant woman climbing through a hole…

An upside down horse balancing on an apple…

They stretched on and on throughout the field.

The perfect way to end our stay in Kyoto.

Update: Our lovely cooking teacher has given us some more information about this event. It’s a one off display of sculptures designed by students at the Kyoto University of Art & Design inspired by Aomori prefecture’s summer festival Nebuta Matsuri.

See our guide to Kyoto temples and shrines for ideas on where to explore in the city. 

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  1. Re the giant woman climbing through a hole, have you still not watched the original Ringu? For shame, ;o)! The sculptures look amazing…and it’s the work of students?! Puts our art students to shame!


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