Beautiful Japanese Gifts for the Modern Home
If you have ever admired traditional Japanese lacquerware, you could be forgiven for believing that a lacquer box or other genuine lacquer item from Japan is beyond your budget. It's true that vintage Japanese laquer bowls, boxes or furniture can be incredibly expensive -- and justifiably so. As with so many Japanese crafts, the skill and care that goes into creating the finest lacquerware is beyond compare. However, for those of us who love the beauty and luxury of a Japanese-style lacquer finish without wanting to invest in lacquerware antiques, these alternatives make lacquer items for your home and kitchen affordable.
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Text copyright IndigoJanson.
The Fine Art of Japanese Lacquer
The Japanese have perfected the craft (or should we say art?) of lacquer ware over the centuries. This is no surprise, given the care and attention that is so much a part of Japanese culture.
While you can read detailed explanations elsewhere on precisely how lacquer ware is created, the short answer is that the lacquer is poured very carefully onto a surface, rather than being painted. This approach creates the high gloss finish, unblemished by brush marks.
The lacquers come from a certain type of tree resin, so are a natural product.
A vintage Japanese box or other item can cost a great deal, if genuine. The difficulty for Westerners without specialist expertise is in assessing whether a lacquerware antique is worth the price being asked. Or indeed whether it is an antique at all.
Traditionally, lacquered ware uses black or red lacquers on wood. Sometimes a combination of both colors are used. For a stunning effect, gold powder (sometimes silver) can be sprinkled into the lacquer finish. This is called maki-e.
(These images shared under Creative Commons Licenses at time of use)
Buying Lacquer Boxes, Furniture, and More on a Budget
The good news is that unless you simply have to have an antique, you can buy a variety of Japanese lacquered pieces for your home and kitchen.
These can range from bento boxes and jewelry boxes to wall panels and traditional chests and tables.
The selection of lacquerware below are all available via Amazon.com but have been made in Japan. If you want a genuine Japanese gift, be alert for pieces that have been mass-produced in China or other Asian countries in a Japanese style, but are not actually from Japan.
This beautiful Japanese box is a jubako box, used for serving foods on special occasions such as the New Year.
Made in the Ishikawa region of Japan, it features a beautiful motif of fans in red, gold and white. The flower and leaf detail in this design is exquisite.
Of course, you don't have to use a lacquer box like this for your own food -- you might prefer to display it where it can be admired. You can also keep jewelry or keepsakes in it.
This jubako box, also from Ishikawa in Japan, has 3 tiers. Each tier has a plastic lid, making it a practical way to store food if you want to put it to its traditional use.
The lid has the prettiest trailing leaf and bunny rabbit design. This has been created in gold, green, red and white, beautifully set off by the glossy black finish.
A delightful made in Japan bento box. As you may know, a bento box is used for everyday food, and it catching on beyond Japan as a fun and organized way to take your lunch to work or to school.
This box has an enchanting floral design on the lid and is finished in black lacquer. Affordable enough for regular use, even by children, and would make a lovely favor for a special occasion.
Genuine Article or Anything Goes?
A beautiful Japanese tray, made from plastic but with a lacquer finish. It has a traditional cranes in flight motif.
Just look at this gorgeous Japanese tea set on a black lacquer tray! It's hard to imagine a more elegant way to serve and drink green tea.
This set is hand-crafted in Japan and would be a perfect wedding gift for a couple with Japanese heritage or a love of Japanese culture.
A Selection of Traditional Woodblock Prints on Box Lids
These modern lacquered wooden boxes have art from Japanese woodblock artists featured on tiles set into their lids. The wood is available in 4 shades (ebony black shown here) and in 2 sizes. The large box has a 6 inch square tile, and on the smaller box the tile is 4.25 inches square.
All designs by ukiyoemuseum