The andon is a lamp consisting of paper stretched over a frame of bamboo, wood or metal. The paper protected the flame from the wind. Burning oil in a stone or ceramic holder, with a wick of cotton, provided the light. Rapeseed oil was popular. Candles were also used, but their higher price made them less popular. A lower-priced alternative was sardine oil.
The andon became popular in the Edo period. Early on, the andon was handheld; it can also be placed on a stand or hung on a wall. The okiandon was most common indoors. Many had a vertical box shape, with an inner stand for the light. Some had a drawer on the bottom to facilitate refilling and lighting. A handle on top made it portable. A variety was the Enshu andon. One explanation attributes it to Kobori Enshu, who lived in the late Azuchi-Momoyama Period and early Edo period. Tubular in shape, it had an opening instead of a drawer. Another variety was the Ariake andon, a bedside lamp. The kakeandon under the eaves of a shop, often bearing the name of the merchant, was a common sight in the towns.
The expression hiru andon, or "daytime lamp," meant someone or something that seemed to serve no purpose. In dramatizations of the story of the forty-seven ronin, Oishi Yoshio is often given this description.
The bonbori was a small, portable andon with a six-sided cross-section and a rather wide, open top. Like the andon, it consisted of paper over a frame.
The chochin had a frame of split bamboo wound in a spiral. Paper or silk protected the flame from wind. The spiral structure permitted it to be collapsed into the basket at the bottom. The chochin hung from a hook at the top. In present-day Japan, plastic chochin with electric bulbs are still produced as novelties, souvenirs, and for matsuri and events. The earliest record of a chochin dates to 1085, and one appears in a 1536 illustration.
The akachochin, or red lantern, marks an izakaya.
Originally used in the broad sense to mean any lantern, the word tourou came to mean a lamp of stone, bronze, iron, wood, or another heavy material. These illuminate the grounds of Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, Japanese gardens, and other places that include tradition in their decor. The earlier oil and candles have given way to the electric bulb.