Decorative Japanese boxes include everything from lacquer containers to ones embellished in cloisonné. Although lacquering techniques are thought to have originated in China, while cloisonné is considered a product of what is now Turkey, both were elevated to a fine art in Japan.

Lacquerware was a natural for Japan since the lacquer tree, whose sap is used to produce the resinous coating, is found in many parts of the island nation. Japanese lacquerware began to differentiate itself from its Chinese forebear, though, in the eighth and ninth centuries, when techniques such as maki-e (the practice of mixing powdered gold or silver into the lacquer) and inlay using shell or mother-of-pearl became popular with the royals. Objects made of lacquerware included writing boxes, incense containers, and boxes for stationery, documents, or toiletries. Smaller, portable lacquered boxes called inro were secured to the sashes that bound a wearer’s kimono, often by a tiny carving called netsuke.

Cloisonné actually arrived rather late in Japan, probably no earlier than the 16th century, and cloisonné boxes were not common until the middle of the 19th, when Westerners were obsessed with “the Orient,” spawning in Europe a decorative style called Japonisme. In Japanese, cloisonné artisans frequently used flowers such as peonies and chrysanthemums as their design motifs, as well as birds such as doves and cranes.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum

You can get happily lost searching through the 10,000 or so objects on the Asian Art Museum's website. For example,… [read review or visit site]

Jan-Erik Nilsson's extensive reference on antique Chinese porcelain. Jam-packed with information (e.g. on porcelain… [read review or visit site]

Most watched eBay auctions    

Fine And Unusual Japanese Puzzle Box With Abacus C.1930’sAntique .970 Silver Japanese Kabiuki Masks, Garnets Syones, Cigarette Case & BoxRare Yellow Ground Japanese Cloisonné Wire Enamel & Silver Geisha Girl Box 1920s85904# Japanese Lacquered Box / By Koshu / Urushi / Makie / Plant 85918# Japanese Lacquer Ware / Shokado Lunch Box / Lacquered2 Antique Japanese Mount Fuji Design Laquered Wooden Boxes - Black And Gold85921# Japanese Lacquer Ware / Shokado Lunch Box / Lacquered85925# Japanese Lacquer Ware / Lunch Box / Set Of 5Vintage Japanese Mount Fuji Puzzle BoxVintage? Japanese? Wood Marquetry Miniature Cabinet Tansu Jewellery Box DrawersVintage Antique Japanese Wooden Secret Puzzle Box With Terriers Plays Tune 85919# Japanese Lacquer Ware / Shokado Lunch Box / Lacquered85926# Japanese Lacquer Ware / Lunch Box / Set Of 5Extremely Fine Vintage Signed Japanese Ando Cloisonne Enamel Orchid Box JapanJapanese Satsuma Box With Signature, Damaged.85922# Japanese Lacquer Ware / Shokado Lunch Box / Lacquered86357# Japanese Lacquered Lunch Box Set Of 2 / Bento E661: Rare, Real Old Japanese Lacquerware Tea Box With Makie And Old Tea ToolsJapanese Inaba Cloissonne BoxJapanese Meiji Antique 140 Yr Old Suzuribako Calligraphy Tansu Chest JkJapanese Vintage Wooden Box Sewing Box Japanese Tansu Style DrawerVintage Meiji Japanese Komei Cigarette Case Chinese Dragon Bird Niello DamasceneDj9: Japanese Lacquered Wooden Tea Ceremony Box By Great Artisan, Heian ZohikoJapanese Wooden Letter Box W/sign/ Fumibako/ Very Nice Carving/ 6814Japanese Wooden Lacquered Multitiered Box Jubako/ Corner-cutting Shape/ 6813Japanese Antique 200 Year Old Edo Era Lidded Kiri Wood Samurai Sword BoxAntique Meiji Or Edo Period Japanese Lacquer Box, Ink Red,chrysanthemum,imperialJapanese Beautiful Shape Original Ceramic Antique Bizen Ware Tea Cup W/boxAntique Japanese Lacquer Box Meiji Period, Koi And Waves, SilverAntique Japanese? Metal Heart Shaped Jewellery Box Af 11cm X 10.5cm A602917 E537: Popular Japanese Signed Accessories Case Of Karaki Wood Covered W/silverSilver. A Fan Type. A Toothpick Case. Decoration Box. 40g. Japanese Antique. E584: Japanese Karaki Wooden Case With Drawer As Pencil Case With Good Taste E565: Japanese Wooden Storage Box For Tea Bowl Made From Kiri. Shiho-san 2 E571: Japanese Wooden Storage Box For 2 Tea Caddies Satsu-bako Made From Kiri. Best Work Japanese Carved Wood Monkeys Netsuke Ojime Tonkotsu Signed Tobacco Box E564: Japanese Wooden Storage Box For Tea Bowl Made From Kiri. Shiho-san 1 Japanese Shunkei Nuri Lacquered Wood Tray Obon Tabako Bon Ashtray Boat Shape 86008# Japanese Red Lacquer Box / Shell Inlay / Makie / Pinen Bamboo Plum 85923# Japanese Lacquer Ware / Shokado Lunch Box / Lacquered85920# Japanese Lacquer Ware / Shokado Lunch Box / Lacquered86147# Japanese Lacquer Ware / Stacking Box / Two-layer / Lacquered / Hikobei Ni86356# Japanese Lacquered Lunch Box Set Of 3 / Bento / Urushi / Makie 86007# Japanese Lacquered Round 2-tier Box / Urushi Jubako / Fine Lines Vintage Antique Signed Japanese Solid Sterling Silver Pill/snuff Box 28 GramsJapanese Antique 200 Yr Old Signed Lidded Kiri (paulownia) Wood Scroll Box Vintage Japanese Puzzle Box - Depicting Mount Fuji