Celebratory lacquerware used during the New Year
In English, the term “japan” is synonymous with Japanese lacquerware. Japan has for centuries been renowned for its lacquerware—wooden dishes and utensils layered with a varnish made from the sap of the Japanese lacquer tree. Sealing and protecting wooden ware with lacquer, or urushi, makes it resistant to cracks and stains; its low heat conductivity allows a lacquered dish containing, for example, hot soup, to be held comfortably by hand, and sipped directly from the mouth—perfectly suited to traditional Japanese dining etiquette. The beauty of lacquer is also essential to the Japanese aesthetic, in that it enhances the appeal of the food itself. Lacquerware is versatile; it may be used every day, but is elegant enough for use on important occasions, such as during the New Year and other celebratory rituals. The distinctive lacquerware used on these special observances is often exquisitely decorated with hand-painted details, and inlaid with gold or mother-of-pearl.