Jubako lunch boxes come in various shapes such as cylindrical or hexagonal, but the most common is square.
Jubako are basically lunch boxes for food. They may have up to 5 layers. Officially, these layers represent the 4 seasons, so there are usually only 4 layers. Jubako may hold special food such as 'osechi' at New Year, or for hanami cherry-blossom-viewing picnics, or during athletic festivals.
It is believed that jubako developed from 'food baskets' ('shilong') introduced from China. However, there are references to lunch boxes in Muromachi-period documents, therefore, it could be said that jubako have a long history.
During the Edo period, jubako came to be used by common people, too, and their real manufacture began in 1610. Samurai and daimyo used them as lunch boxes during leisure outings, such as hunting expeditions. Later, they started to be lacquered and decorated. Even now, this traditional item is commonly used in Japan.
Nokami Hachimangu Shrine is an old and distinguished shrine located in Kimino-cho, Kaiso-gun, Wakayama Pref. It is said that the shrine dates back to the period during the reign of Emperor Kinmei (around A.D. 550). It is one of the 3 largest Hachiman shrines in Japan. As a branch shrine of Iwashimizu Shrine in Kyoto, Nokami Shrine has been worshipped by people for a long time. The shrine is also known for a lot of nationally designated cultural properties including the Main Hall built in the Azuchi Momoyama period (1568-1598), the Main Hall of Takeuchi Shrine (one of the branch shrines), and a sword. Brilliant vermillion of the Main Hall reminds us of its ancient flourishing times. At the autumn festival held on Sunday in the middle of October every year, flamboyant Shishimai dance (lion dance) is dedicated to the god and a lot of local people come to enjoy the festival.
Hida Shunkei lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in the cities of Takayama and Hida in Gifu Prefecture. The origin of this craft dates back to 1606. A head carpenter, who were engaged in building temples and shrines in the castle town of Takayama, happened to discover beautiful straight grains, when he chopped a piece of sawara cypress wood apart. He made it into a tray and lacquered the surface. Because the coloring of this tray resembled “Hishunkei,” a famous tea ceremony tea jar made by master potter, Kato Kagemasa, the name Shunkei was given to this lacquer ware.
What makes Hida Shunkei lacquer ware so special is the way that the beauty of the surface of the wood is brought out by the application of a transparent coating of lacquer. It is also characterized by its delicate technique of hegime (grooves that are carved out between the wood grains). When exposed to the light, the grains with hegime grooves glow gold through the transparent lacquer. The more it is used, the more gloss it takes on. Hida Shunkei is extremely appealing and robust form of lacquer ware.
Ouchi lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in Yamaguchi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. It is nationally designated as a Traditional Craft Product. It is said that the crafts dates back to the Muromachi period (1336-1573), when the Ouchi clan, who was a prominent figure in the area, promoted trade with Korea and Ming dynasty in China and encouraged the making of this lacquer ware for export.
Ouchi lacquer ware is first undercoated with a sober vermilion, onto which motifs of autumn grasses are applied in a yellowish green lacquer. Finally, a cloud form is drawn, onto which the Ouchi family crest in gold leaf is applied.
At the present time, bowls, trays, flower vessels and dolls are being made. Among them, Ouchi doll is the most popular product. It is said that the 24th lord of the Ouchi clan invited a doll maker from Kyoto and asked him to make a doll for his wife, who had been missing the life in Kyoto. Its cute facial expression attracts people who wish a happy married life.
With its picturesque quality and its scientific technique, Yuzen dyeing is an art form unique to Japan.
Takahashitoku, an elite dyeing studio in Kyoto, has for 100 years produced Yuzen dyes for the prominent manufacturer, Chiso.
The Takahashitoku studio is trying to preserve and make relevant this traditional art form for modern uses. They dye dresses and jeans for Yoji Yomamoto, one of world’s top contemporary designers. They also collaborated with a celebrated young artist and created scrolls and screens of his compute graphics paintings. For public, they hold classes for to experience hand painted Yuzen for fun.
“Tradition and techniques need to be accepted by people in order to survive’, says Kinya Takahashi, director of the studio. “But then what makes them acceptable? This question is always on my mind.”
Tamamushi lacquer ware was developed in 1932 by Shun Koiwa (artist name: Komei), who taught at National Tohoku Craftworks Institute established in Sendai by the old Ministry of Commerce and Industry in 1928. Traditional lacquering techniques and some innovative techniques were combined together to create a product with styles favored by foreign people.
The origin of the name Tamamushi comes from the fact that it glitters just like a Tamamushi (jewel beetle). After a base coating with lacquer, silver power is sprinkled on the surface, over which lacquer is applied 10 times, or in special cases 40-50 times. Because of this silver coating and repeated lacquering processes, its color is iridescent and mysteriously beautiful. In the final stage, patterns are drawn and decorated with the techniques of Chinkin (gold-inlay carving) or Makie (gold and silver powdering).
In the post-war period, it became very popular in foreign countries and became the major lacquer ware item for export. Today, it enjoys a good reputation domestically and overseas as the lacquer ware that fits both Japanese and Western lifestyles.
Takaoka lacquerware originated about four centuries ago in Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture. Takaoka lacquerware crystallises the wisdom and skills of this craft and is closely linked to the history of this area.
Takaoka lacquerware was first made in the early Edo period, when the head of the Kaga Domain, Maeda Toshinaga, built Takaoka Castle and needed the locals to lacquer weapons and daily commodities for him, such as drawers and trays with legs.
The local craft further developed when techniques for coloring lacquer, known as 'tsuishu' and 'tsuikoku', were imported from China. Other features of this craft are lacquering techniques that use ground powders ('sabi-e'), beautiful stones or iridescent shells to decorate surfaces with scenery, figures and patterns.
In the mid-Meiji period, another technique was established. Known as 'chokoku-nuri', it builds up various colored lacquers to give a three-dimensional sculptural effect that elegantly recalls the Kamakura period.
The mastery and skill of this craft were recognised in 1975, when Takaoka lacquerware was designated as a National Traditional Handicraft.
Japanese tea used for tea ceremonies is called “matcha,” and there are two types of matcha; koicha (thick tea) and usucha (thin tea). Usucha is put in a container called “usuchaki,” while koicha in “koichaki.” In the ancient times, koicha was mainly used for tea ceremonies, but later in the 16th century, when Wabi-cha (the tea ceremony that emphasizes on simplicity) became popular, usucha began to be favored due to its plain taste and moderate price.
Natsume is a typical tea container for usucha. Natsume may be made of wood, lacquer over layers of paper, ceramic or metal. The designs also vary from the unpatterned to the ones with colorful pictures of the season. Natsume is selected in accordance with other equipments.
As natsume is simple in shape, the craftsmen’s conscience as well as the appearance quality decides the excellence of the work. It is a most suitable item for the modest atmosphere of the tea ceremony.