Famed Kaminarimon lantern gets rare makeover

Kyodo

The giant red lantern at Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate), which serves as the entrance to Sensoji Temple, made its first appearance after a once-in-a-decade makeover during a dedication ceremony Monday.

This was the fifth time the lantern, the symbol of the historical Asakusa district in Taito Ward, has been replaced.

The new lantern was unveiled two months after the old one was removed in mid-September.

The new lantern is 3.9 meters tall, 3.3 meters wide and weighs about 700 kg. It was built by Takahashi Chochin K.K., which has specialized in lantern production for 40 years.

The company, based in Shimogyo Ward in Kyoto, collected handmade Japanese paper from Fukui Prefecture and bamboo from Kyoto’s Tamba district for a year before it started making the lantern in early September.

Kaminarimon, which is the outer of two entrance gates to the temple, was fully rebuilt in 1960 by Panasonic Corp., formerly known as Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Its founder, Konosuke Matsushita, was asked to rebuild the gate 95 years after it was gutted by a fire at the end of the Edo Period, in 1865. The gate was first built in the Heian Period, in 941.

The lantern uses the same metallic base on the bottom as the last one, which bears the name of the electronics company. Although Matsushita changed its name to Panasonic in 2008, the name plate on the base still says Matsushita Denki, an abbreviated form of its old Japanese name — Matsushita Denki Sangyo Kabushiki Gaisha.

A Panasonic spokesman said the name plate was left unchanged in honor of the company’s long ties with the temple.