Lanterns in the novel are associated with Ono’s teacher Mori-san, who includes a lantern in each of his paintings and dedicates himself to trying to capture the look of lantern light. For Mori-san, the flickering, easily extinguished quality of lantern light symbolizes the transience of beauty and the importance of giving careful attention to small moments and details in the physical world. Lanterns, then, symbolize an outlook on life which prizes small details and everyday moments above the ideological concerns of nationalists or commercial concerns of businesspeople. It is an old-fashioned, aesthetically focused, and more traditional way of viewing the world.
Lanterns Quotes in An Artist of the Floating World
"We took him once to the cinema to see an American cowboy film. He's been very fond of cowboys ever since. We even had to buy him a ten-gallon hat. He’s convinced cowboys make that funny sound he does. It must have seemed very strange.”
“So that’s what it was,” I said with a laugh. “My grandson’s become a cowboy.”
Down in the garden, a breeze was making the foliage sway.
Noriko was crouching down by the old stone lantern near the back wall, pointing something out to Ichiro.
“Still,” I said, with a sigh, “only a few years ago, Ichiro wouldn't have been allowed to see such a thing as a cowboy film.”
Setsuko, without turning from the garden, said: “Suichi believes it's better he likes cowboys than that he idolize people like Miyamoto Musashi. Suichi thinks the American heroes are the better models for children now.”