4 Types of Japanese Antique Furniture

Japanese antique furniture is very ornate. Usually lacquered, hand carved and inlaid with ivory and mother-of-pearl, these techniques have been dated back to as far as Neolithic times. Lacquer was first made with tree sap from the varnish tree (Rhus Vernicifera) and could be applied to wood, leather and fabrics. Following are 4 examples of Japanese antique furniture.


Also known as Raden, Oriental lacquerware became popular in Europe in the 16th Century. Boxes, screens, and cabinets were imported into Europe; and by the 17th Century, the term and practice of "Japanning" was used in the UK to duplicate this decorative art. Shell thickness is applied according to shell class, shells are classed as follows: Atsugai, thickest; Usugai, medium thickness; and Kenma, thinnest.

Nanban Trade (1543 - 1641)

Boxes, Chests and Caskets

The Nanban Trade began with the first arrival of Europeans to Japan. Imported lacquerware writing boxes, chests, caskets and other furniture pieces were highly sought after abroad. This period is also known to the Japanese as the Southern Barbarian Trade period.

Meiji Period (1868 - 1912)

Meiji Cabinets

Meiji cabinets were produced during the 45 year Meiji Emperor rule. These cabinets are hand carved and feature lacquered panels with ivory and mother-of-pearl details. Meiji cabinets are used as display cabinets.

Shibayama Screens

Screens are common in Japanese homes. Antique Shibayama screens are usually made from rosewood, with ivory, mother-of-pearl, abalone shell, or coral accents. Hand carved and lacquered, antique screens are true pieces of art.