The time of Obon is upon us, the middle of August when the spirits of the dead return to visit their families. A lantern is hung so the wandering souls may find their way. And on the last day of Obon (August 16), in Kyoto, is held perhaps the most famous of all the festivals, commonly referred to as Daimonji-yaki, when 6 massive characters are lit on fire in the mountains surrounding the city to light the way home for the ancestors. Unlike the Gion festival or Aoi Festival, made for tourists, it is very local, personal, and an almost melancholy event. You will find the entire city celebrating with family, then, after dark, out in the streets, silently watching the inferno roar up on the mountains in a torrent of sparks making the shapes of Dai, Myo, ho, fune….orchestrated to start concentrically around the city beginning in the east. And after the crescendo, the flames wane, then flicker and disappear taking the summer with them. It is the most Japanese of festivals with its emphasis on the pathos and transience of life.
This lantern would have been hung outside the home to light the way for the returning ancestors. The lantern is made of a red lacquered wooden frame suspended by chains of antique glass beads. Stretched between the sides are four silk panels backed with paper. On three sides are painted abandoned skulls (two signed Ko-u, the third unknown) and on the fourth an epitaph dated the 8th month of Meiji 36 dedicated to appeasing the ghosts of honored ancestors signed Kokin. The lantern is 25.5 cm (10 inches) square, 46.5 cm (18-1/2 inches) tall and in overall excellent condition. It comes in the original wooden storage box.