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About the object

A fine quality Japanese shodana (cabinet) lacquered and inlaid with scenes related to the ‘boys festival’ inlaid in Shibayama style and lacquered in various techniques, displaying the superb craftsmanship of the Meiji period c1880

Lacquer - The sap of the lacquer tree, today bearing the technical description of "urushiol-based lacquer," has traditionally been used in Japan. As the substance is poisonous to the touch until it dries, the creation of lacquerware has long been practiced only by skilled dedicated artisans.

As in other countries where lacquerware has traditionally been produced, the process is fundamentally quite basic. An object is formed from wood, sometimes leather, paper, or basketry. Lacquer is applied to seal and protect the object, and then decoration is added. Generally, three coats (undercoat, middle-coat, and final coat) are used, the final coat sometimes being clear rather than black lacquer, in order to allow decorations to show through.

Alongside the red and black lacquers, it is common to see the use of inlay, often seashells or similar materials, as well as mica or other materials. The application of gold powder is known as maki-e, and is a very common decorative element.
raden is using inlays of shell and ivory to decorate pieces that usually have a wood base

Shibayama - Shibayama refers to the intricate carving and minute encrustation of various materials on to a ground material. The inlay typically consists of mother-of-pearl, ivory, tortoiseshell and coral, the combination creating a delightful contrast of colours and textures. Set in high relief above a wood, lacquer and sometimes ivory base, the inlay depicts figures, flora and fauna with a highly appealing three-dimensional effect. 

Shibayama as an art form was founded by the late Edo period craftsman Ōnoki Senzō, who named this technique after his hometown Shibayama in present-day Chiba prefecture. Senzō soon became so celebrated for his invention that he then decided to adopt Shibayama as his surname. Following its introduction at the 1867 Paris World Expo, shibayama treasures were to enjoy great fascination and appreciation from Western collectors, and facilitated by the opening up of Meiji Japan, many Shibayama pieces were exported to Europe.

Boys festival - 
Now known as children’s day in Japan, the ancient festival of Boys day was originally called Tango no sekku (端午の節句) – one of the five annual ceremonies held at the imperial court – and was celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth moon in the Chinese calendar. After Japan switched to the Gregorian calendar, the date was moved to May 5.

Until 1948, Children's Day was known as Boys' Day (also known as Feast of Banners), celebrating boys and recognizing fathers, as the counterpart to Hinamatsuri, or "Girl's Day" on March 3. In 1948, the name was changed to Children's Day to include both male and female children, as well as recognizing mothers along with fathers and family qualities of unity.