How to make Japanese floating lanterns

Updated November 21, 2016

Each summer in Japan, people release floating paper lanterns into local rivers and lakes. The lanterns are decorated with special names and symbols and dedicated to deceased loved ones. This ceremony is called "Toro Nagashi" and it takes place over three days that serve the same purpose as Remembrance Day in the UK. You, too, can honour your lost loved ones in this way by creating your own floating Japanese lantern. They are not difficult to make but require adult supervision for children and a little patience.

Spread out a piece of Yupo translucent paper on a clean, flat surface. You can buy this synthetic material at art and crafts shops or from online suppliers. Sketch your design onto the paper in pencil. Appropriate designs include pagodas, weeping cherry trees, Japanese characters, koi fish and other Asian motifs.

Outline your design in permanent marker and colour it in with watercolour paints. Allow the paper to dry.

Fold your paper into quarters to create a square lantern or simply bend it into a tube for a cylindrical lantern. Glue the two edges of the paper together and secure them with paper clips while they dry.

Trace around the bottom of your lantern with a pencil onto a bamboo sheet. Bamboo sheets feature thin strips of bamboo woven together into thin mats. Cut out the shape, trace around the edge with glue and place your lantern shade on top. Allow the glue to dry.

Place a votive candle inside the lantern. Carefully light the candle with a long match or taper lighter, keeping the flame away from the sides of the lantern. Put your lantern in an outdoor water feature, stream, lake or even a child’s pool.

Things You'll Need

  • Yupo translucent paper
  • Pencil
  • Permanent markers
  • Watercolour paints
  • Glue
  • Paper clips
  • Scissors
  • Thin bamboo mats
  • Votive candles
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