The decoration on the outside of this box features a scene from Chapter 24, Kocho [Butterflies], of the eleventh-century novel Genji monogatari [The Tale of Genji] by the court lady Murasaki Shikibu, where Prince Genji and one of his loves plan a boating expedition. Features common to most lacquer depictions of this episode include the two barges, the drum and the cherry-trees. The exceptional finish of this box and highly unusual lacquer decoration suggest that it was made for a particularly important client. For a later twentieth-century example of the same design, see 1 below.
1 Spink & Son Ltd., Japanese Lacquer: Miyabi Transformed (London, 1997), no. 18.