Andon (Lantern) Plates
By Yamazaki Masumi : Excerpt from Daruma 42
Andon-zara (plates for lanterns) are also called abura-zara (oil plates). As the name implies, people put a plate on the lamp’s lower level to prevent that or nearby tatami mats from being stained by oil dropping from the light dish (tômyô-zara) above or leaking from an oil feeder (abura-sashi) (see figs. 7 & 8).
The andon plates were just miscellaneous wares covered with oil. But by the Taishô to early Shôwa era (1910-30) people had already stopped using them, Yanagi Sôetsu who is well-known for his Mingei (folkcraft) movement, recognized their value as craftworks, and people began to collect them.
They were mainly made at Seto kilns. As a result of the artisans’ experience with mass-production, the plates have a free and easy picture style, combined with skillful technique and glazes, and are worth checking out even today.
Originally andon plates were just tools for ordinary people’s daily lives, so few records remain about them. But probably because collectors paid attention to Seto plates, you can find them and they convey their role and history to us.
In this article, let me tell you about Seto lantern plates, their history and role.
The author is a curator of Nihon no Akari Museum. You can read the complete article by purchasing Daruma 42 from our Back Issues page.