Recently in my house we had a blackout. We had to break out the candles for light and I was reminded just how beautiful the natural light of a burning flame is. While moving to electricity along with the rest of the world, Japanese lamps and lighting have done a pretty good job of keeping alight the flame (see what I did there?) of the warmth and moodiness in their design.
Traditional, and traditionally inspired, Japanese lamps and lighting continue to incorporate items such as the chochin 提灯 (Japanese Lantern) and andon 行灯 (Shoji Light – of which we have a whole page devoted to here).
Japanese lamps and lanterns are generally beautiful objects in their own right, on or off. To see what kind of other furniture and room setting you might want to use this sort of Japanese lighting take a look at the Japanoscope Japanese Home Decor Top 10 Page.
How to Choose the Best Japanese Lamp
There are a lot of options, much more than just the paper based, and somewhat erroneously named, “Shoji lamps”. You will find a range of materials and shapes that include the table, floor, indoor, outdoor, and ceiling lamps.
Different lamps play different roles, so this article is meant to, ahem, shed some light on what your options are.
When choosing the best Japanese lamp, here are the things you should consider:
This is the first decision you need to make – the fundamental form factor for your Japanese Lamp! Your main choices are:
- Table Lamp
- Floor Lamp
- Ceiling Lamp
- Box Style
- Outdoor Lamp (such as a Japanese Stone Lantern)
This is an obvious one, but probably the most overlooked – especially when buying online. Don’t forget the basics!
The carpenter’s adage of “Measure twice, cut once” is also true for buying furniture on the internet.
- Make sure you get a Japanese lamp that fits your space!
- Consider height – the higher the light the wider the spread.
- Usually, the height of the lamp should consider the scale of everything else in the space. If your living room has low furniture, ensure the light source does not tower above everything else.
As always, prices vary broadly from basic models to thousands of dollars for customized pieces. Personally, I think it makes sense to not buy bottom of the range for something that you are going to see and use everyday. The main aesthetic of Japanese design is influenced by buddhist ideas of mindfulness and creating more with less. This means a focus on quality over quantity. It’s no good having a minimal look if you are going to skimp on the detail.
How will your Japanese lamp match your existing room decor?
- What materials are you after?
- Paper (Shoji Lamp)
6. Wattage and Lumens
Like any electric lighting source, Japanese lamps have a predefined wattage range and power specifications. It is best to take this into consideration when you purchase, as this will ultimately decide the range of brightness you can achieve.
Watts refer to the amount of power used, and Lumens refer to the brightness of the light. You want to take into account the efficiency, so more watts doesn’t always mean better. You can find tables outlining wattage to lumens here.
On top of this, there has been a huge proliferation in the different types of light bulb in recent years from screw to twist top to capsule. Consider how easy it is going to be to get a range of globes in the desired wattage in the style that fits your Japanese Lamp.
7. Smart vs Dumb Japanese lamps
Just because you like a classic look doesn’t mean you have to be stuck in the past. Many Japanese lamps now offer smart functionality such as compatibility with networked homes that allow you to control your devices by smart phone or voice control. Others include USB and charging functions. You will pay for this type of functionality, both in financial terms and in some level of compromise to the traditional look. It’s a balancing act that each person needs to consider from their own needs.
Well, this one’s pretty self explanatory, but, you know, if everything in your zen tea room is brown and wooden toned, don’t buy the pink lamp.
What Are The Different Types of Japanese Lamps?
Let’s take a look at the main lamps available and when you might want to use them.
Table Japanese Lamps –
an ideal option for the living room as they are usually used as a complementary source of lighting. Apart from offering extra light, they also act as classic accessories to your furnished room, giving it an elegant Japanese touch to the living room.
Table lamps also work well as bedside table lamps.
Floor Lamps –
These lamps are built to sit on the floor directly, so work well in those “awkward” spaces they there often isn’t much else to do with, such as behind a glass door or between a couch and a wall. In this way, they are often an efficient use of floor space. Indeed, many floor lamps also incorporate some kind of storage also in the form of shelving.
They are an ideal option for areas that need a little extra warmth at a mid-room level. They can work well in a minimal setting where you need some kind of “accent”.
Although most are made of wood, it is possible to find modern floor lamps that are made of steel or synthetic materials.
Their simple, modern yet classic, and elegant look fits well in the living room, office, or bedroom. When we tried this lamp, we noted it provides a soft, calming brilliance, creating a relaxing atmosphere.
Hanging Lamps –
If you think the table lamp or the floor lamp is elegant, but you just can’t justify the sacrifice of even the smallest floor space, then a Japanese Ceiling Lamp or hanging lamp is the way to go. This style of lamp can work well in the kitchen, where a table or floor lamp would be in danger of getting dirty.
Probably the most popular place to install a Japanese ceiling lamp is in the bedroom. One of the features of some Japanese ceiling lamps is a drawstring which can be used to turn the light on and off from floor or bed level. No more having to remember to turn off the room light before you get into bed. This works best in a futon room where the place you are sleeping is close to the center of the room.
Many of these ceiling lights are in the “Shoji” style made from paper and wood. The soft lighting provided by Japanese ceiling lamps is ideal for the bedroom, but can be used in multiple areas that require a subtle touch.
Anyone that has been to a few Japanese gardens will be able to attest to the beauty of the stately, ancient looking Japanese stone lanterns that silently watch over the ever changing landscape.
The Brightech Maxwell table lamp is an ideal light for the bedside. It works well with an LED bulb, and it comes with a USB port that allows you to charge other electronic gadgets.
While it is an excellent example of a modern bedside lamp, it is not restricted to the bedroom.
You can opt to use it in your study room and even your office. It has a stylish look that adds character to the interior of your space.
As a smart lamp, you can use Brightech Maxwell with Google Home, Alexa, Dot, Echo, among other voice commands apps.
- Charge your devices!
- wall switch and smart outlet compatible with Alexa, Echo, Dot, Google Home, etc
- turn the lights on and off with your voice or the simple flick of a switch as you enter the room
- Has a beautiful design with quality fabric top
- Soft light
- Plastic base
- Light weight means that it is relatively easy to knock over
- light fabric needs regular cleaning
This table lamp is ideal for anyone looking for a traditional yet modern looking Japanese light. It’s stylish, functional and no nonsense.
- Linen shade
- Very reasonable price
- Has a sleek look
- On/Off Switch is in middle of chord, which is a little inconvenient to reach.
- Small in size
This lamp stands at 63-inches tall, and it takes a space of about 10¼ square inches, and is perfect for spaces requiring something slender. In a quintessentially traditional Japanese style, this lamp offers you space for your books and other materials, combining lighting and storage.
The Brightech Maxwell – Modern LED Shelf Floor Lamp is easy to assemble and sturdy.
- Slender size and delicate look
- Easy to assemble
- Compatible with traditional and modern interior
- Has a thick upper light shade that offers a soothing light
- Acts as a shelf
- Although steady, it’s height makes it relatively easy to destabilize. Possibly not the best option for kids.
- The light’s sheer height makes it “tower” too much in some spaces.
The Ikea 301.841.73 is an excellent piece if you live in a vintage home that has wooden and antique furniture. It comes with a rice paper, which gives it a subtle and calm look to your room without causing a visual distraction.
When it comes to cleaning, you only need a cloth to wipe dust away without tearing the cover. It is compatible with any bulb that fits the E26 screw base giving you the freedom to choose your bulb.
- Easy set up & installation
- Easy to clean rice paper
- Well known global brand
- Tall, 46-inches
- Paper lamps inherently are subject to tearing
- Not as instantly “Japanese” looking as some
If you are looking to add a sense of levity and “floating ness” to your home, a hanging Japanese light shade is a great place to start. The Ikea 701.034.10 has an array of lighting colors that feel contemporary and in fashion.
Its classic spherical design is simple and pleasing, giving your room a relaxed feel and ambience.
- Internationally recognised brand
- Good size for average size for homes
- Classic shape and texture
- Shade only, must buy cord and globe separately
If you are searching for something in a very traditional, vintage style the Oriental Furniture Akida Hanging Lamp is an ideal option.
Its retro look takes the visual look of your space to a whole new level. If you decide to hang it above your furniture or dining table, this fabulous lamp will offer you a guest-friendly light without being gaudily bright.
- 100-percent kiln dried scandinavian spruce
- Ships fully assembled
- fiber reinforced pressed pulp rice paper
- Has a classic look
- Gives out great lighting
- 60 watts may not be sufficient for some rooms
- Hangs from cord rather than a dedicated chain
Because of its unique mix of traditional aesthetic mixed with high tech smart technology, the Brightech Maxwell – Bedroom Nightstand Lamp with USB Ports comes out as my clear favorite. This being said, others might want something that is truly “traditional”, so it’s worth checking out some of the other options listed here. If you are specifically looking at a “rice paper” style lamp, we’ve got a whole post about Shoji lamps here.
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Hi, I’m Peter. I lived in Japan for four years as a University student completing a Masters Degree in Musicology. I have succesfully completed the highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (N1). I have toured the country six times playing music and singing songs in Japanese and English.