- Rounded or cylindrical lanterns made of bamboo and paper. Their use is not at all restricted to Shinto but they are found, often in their hundreds, decorating shrines and they feature in several well-known festivals. They may be seen primarily as a symbol of welcome to the kami; mikoshi are often welcomed or accompanied by lantern-bearers. Chochin are used mainly in the August-October period at the same time as other nighttime fire (hi-matsuri), torch and firework festivals associated with praying for rain (amagoi) and for the ripening of the rice harvest. In a gyoretsu festival parade inscribed lanterns may be carried to represent key donors or organisers of the festival. At the Isshiki-no-ochochin matsuri at the Suwa-jinja in Isshiki, Aichi (26-27th August), enormous chochin ten metres high and six metres across are displayed. At the Nihonmatsu-jinja, Fukushima, seven floats of lanterns carrying taiko drummers parade through the town in early October. The Akita kanto matsuri (5-7th August) features 'kanto'; ten-metre tall bamboo poles supporting nine cross-poles festooned with 46 lanterns. Each kanto represents a loaded ear of rice, and is carried balanced on the bearer's shoulder or chest. At the Kasuga taisha on August 15th, 1000 chochin and 1800 stone lanterns are lit, illuminating the dancing accompanied by music. The lanterns floated downriver to send away spirits at bon are mainly square toro, but may be chochin-shaped.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.