Traditional Japanese pastimes: picnics
In sixteenth century Japan a mid-day meal was added to the routine morning and evening meals, and the picnic set probably developed at this time.
As merchants and artisans gained wealth and leisure time, picnics developed into rituals associated with certain times of year. It became a custom to put on fine clothes and take trips from the town into the countryside in springtime to view the cherry blossom, or to view the changing colours of autumn maples later in the year.
The high-status picnic set changed from being a purely practical object to being a decorative one associated with these customs. Picnic sets were often made of lacquer, consisting of a pair of bottles and small saucers for serving and drinking sake, a number of food trays and a tiered box for holding different foods. The saucers were usually stored in a drawer underneath the bottles and the different parts fitted into special sections in a carrying frame with a handle.
Each part of a picnic set often had matching decoration. One picnic set is decorated with sheaves of rice straw hung out to dry, sprouts growing in the stubble and wind-powered clappers to frighten away scavenging birds. The scene establishes the season as autumn, a popular time for rural trips, and also suggests the celebration of the rice harvest.