Stacked Food Box (Jūbako) with “Whose Sleeves?” (Tagasode) Design


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This elegant food box, created for a celebratory meal, features garment racks draped with kimonos and clothing accessories. Such images were called “Whose Sleeves?” (Tagasode), a phrase used in waka poetry that here suggests the absent but presumably elegant owner of the depicted garments. Such imagery became popular on folding screens and on decorative arts from the late sixteenth century onward.

In this design, the lower panel of the lacquer stand includes a scene from Chapter 51, “A Boat Cast Adrift” (Ukifune), in which the amorous Prince Niou takes Ukifune away by boat on a cold early spring day to a mansion across the Uji River. On the way, they stop at the Isle of Orange Trees and exchange poetry, the moment captured on the box.

Stacked Food Box (Jūbako) with “Whose Sleeves?” (Tagasode) Design, Lacquered wood with gold and silver hiramaki-e, gold- and silver-foil application, and mother-of-pearl inlay on gold nashiji (“pear-skin”) ground, Japan

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