How to Make Japanese Floating Lanterns

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Things You'll Need

  • Yupo translucent paper

  • Pencil

  • Permanent markers

  • Watercolor paints

  • Glue

  • Paperclips

  • Scissors

  • Bamboo mats, thin

  • Votive candles

Create lanterns that float in the water.

Each summer in Japan, citizens release floating paper lanterns into local rivers and lakes. The lanterns are decorated with special names and symbols and dedicated to late loved ones. This ceremony is called Toro Nagashi and it takes place over three days that serve the same purpose as American Memorial Day. You, too, can honor your lost loved ones 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.


Step 1

Spread out a piece of Yupo translucent paper on a clean, flat surface. Sketch your design onto the paper in pencil. Appropriate designs include pagodas, weeping cherry trees, Japanese characters, koi fish and other Asian motifs.

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Step 2

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


Step 3

Fold your paper into fourths 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 paperclips while they dry.

Step 4

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 set your lantern shade on top. Allow the glue to dry.


Step 5

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



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