Picnic box with motif of a boat and plovers
Lacquer on wood, gold leaf, silver leaf, silver
Edo period, 18th-19th century
H:36cm, L:41cm, D:25cm
Original box

Japan is a very particular country which developed a “bento culture” in the world. Bento means a lunch box literally, and now is an international word. Nobento is another name of bento which was carried especially for going on a picnic. “No” of nobento means ‘field’ literally.

Flower viewing “hanami” or outdoor tea-ceremony party has become popular since the Momoyama period (1573-1603), and the lunch boxes in lacquerware were made in this time. After the Edo period, the culture of going out with nobento became more and more popular as an elegant and sophisticated custom. A large number of nobento of this period has been left until today.

The quality and size of this nobento is quite unusual. The upper part is lacquered with gold maki-e with red and green takamaki-e depicting the leaves. Most of body part is covered with gold and silver lacquer, and the gold leaves and silver leaves are gilded on in appropriate spots to make it outstanding; the plovers with gold foils and waves with silver foils. Especially the depict of plovers is exceptional, the gold leaves were put after takamaki-e was done. The technique of togidashi-maki-e (burnished maki-e) is mainly used everywhere. And the plovers are painted with the technique of takamaki-e and they effect the 3-D. It must have been a stupendously long term work to create this piece.

All the accompaniments are three small individual plates, one tray, two tokkuri (sake flacon), two sake cups, and one cup stand. Everything is made to be put in this box, and the system is amazing.

The design of a boat floating on the sea and the plovers flying around. The motif of plovers depicted with wave is called ‘hama-chidori’ and its lovely appearance has been loved since the Heian period.

And the signature lacquered on the back of two sake cups, “Nagasaki Tomifusa” is probably the artist’s name. Unknown artist, but this is a great masterpiece.

Flat decoration maki-e. After the first drying, the decoration would be covered with another lacquer and it would be burnished. After repeating this processes for some times, this technique makes the lacquerware very resistant and picturesque.
A flat traditional method of decorating lacquer objects. Motifs are drawn with lacquer on the surface and gold or silver powder in differing grades is sprinkled on the still wet lacquer ground. Flat type.
A decoration technique in which design elements are formed of lacquer and foundation material in relief. Gold or silver powder is sprinkled on their surface. As pictorial elements executed in this technique are raised off the ground, it is called “high sprinkled picture.”
Gold and silver foil gilding technique. It gives an amazingly gorgeous appearance.