Offerings of Light: Japanese Lanterns in the Garden

Historically, Japanese lanterns were used as an offering of light to Buddha.  In Buddhism, the light of the lantern represents overcoming the ignorance of darkness.  Over time, the stone lanterns developed a more secular use and became a practical and aesthetic element for ‘lighting the way’ to evening tea ceremonies.  Often a votive candle inside the lantern would be placed near a basin of water to wash one’s hands before entering the path to the tea garden.  Today, lanterns can be used to frame and illuminate pathways in your garden, to add interest and a focal point near ponds, or as a contrasting shape close to a building. 

Lanterns add to the balance, harmony, and enduring nature of the garden.  Pairing well with the natural lava rocks found here on Kaua’i, and the sought-after Japanese aesthetic, these beautiful and stately stone structures bring a feeling of peace and balance to any outdoor space.

Interestingly, stone lanterns or ‘tōrō (translated as ‘light basket’ or ‘light tower’)

were first brought to Japan in around 600 A.D. from Korean artisans that learned their practices from the Chinese. It is believed that these Korean settlers largely influenced by the cultural and spiritual ways of the Chinese, made the journey to Japan to take up residence around this time.  With this move, they brought their knowledge of Buddhism and the techniques used to build stone lanterns.  A group of Korean craftsmen were commissioned to build the first and oldest full-scale temple in Japan, the Asuka-dera temple, which was outfitted with the iconic stone lanterns.  These lantern designs continued to become an integral part of Japanese gardens and temples and have become an iconic part of contemporary Zen gardens.

At Garden Ponds we have a good selection of hand-carved lava stone lanterns that come in 10 styles and sizes.  Come and see if there is a lantern that could enhance your garden, bringing light and timeless elegance into your space.  If you do not find what you are looking for at the nursery, you are welcome to make a custom order to be arriving in October of this year.

Accepting Custom Orders until June 15th 2022 for our next Indonesian Container

We are expecting the arrival of our next container of hand-carved statues and paros pots, or even lava-stone lanterns from Indonesia in October of this year. Maybe you have a beloved pet that you would like to commemorate, or perhaps a loved one’s image may be eternalized as a stone bust? Buddhas, Quan Yins, Shivas, Ganesh’s, Meditating Gnomes, and many other figures are all very realizable.  Come by or call us to get your custom orders in by June 15th. With endless possibilities and ideas, we encourage you to dream up a custom-carved statue that would be a positive addition to your life.

Garden Ponds is located in Kilauea, next to the Kauai Mini Golf and is open Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Give us a call at 808-828-6400 or visit us at to read the latest blog post. Visit our online store at to see our statuary to get ideas for custom carved statues. Container arriving October 2022! Deadline for orders is June 15th, 2022.