Traditional Japanese pastimes: calligraphy
Ownership of a high quality writing set with tasteful decoration was a sign of status and refinement.
Ink was prepared by pouring water on to the inkstone with a dropper, and then grinding an inkstick into the water. The ink was applied to the paper with a variety of brushes. Other utensils might include a paper knife, or an inkstick holder to avoid dirty fingers.
All the writing utensils were stored neatly in a lacquer box, with a separate section to hold each piece in place. Writing equipment might also include a lacquer box to store the writing paper, or a special lacquer writing table.
In the Edo period it became fashionable to decorate both the outside and the inside of writing sets and paper boxes. Many of these items were quite large for lacquered objects, and provided a good opportunity to demonstrate the skill of the lacquer artist and the wealth and connoisseurship of the owner. Many scenes on lacquer writing sets are literary references to well-known stories.