Jubako is a term used to refer to a box consisting of two to five stacked sub-boxes, in which food is stored. Jubako consisting of four stacked sub-boxes is said to be formal, as the number four means the number of seasons. The fourth sub-box is called 'Yo-no-ju' instead of "Shi-no-ju" because the pronunciation of "Shi" is the same as that of "死 (death)."
While typical Jubako has a rectangular shape, some of them have a circular shape, a hexagonal shape, or an octagonal shape. Nowadays, Jubako are normally used to store Osechi-ryori on New Years' Day, or as a lunch box for cherry blossom viewing or sporting events, or as a container for Unaju (boxed rice and roast eel).
The history of Jubako is considered to be rather long because the term 'Jubako' can be found in literature from the Muromachi period.
Jubako became popular among ordinary people in the Edo period when their commercial production began in 1610. Gorgeous Jubako, such as those coated with Urushi lacquer and those decorated by Makie, were also made for Samurai and Daimyo classes. Potable Jubako, which are convenient to be carried for hunting and other outdoor events, were also used.
Recently, Jubako are not used as often as they used to be because containers (or lunch boxes) made of new materials, such as polypropylene, etc., are in widespread use.
The origin of Jubako is "Jikiro" of China, which is a hexagonal or octagonal container consisting of stacked sub-boxes.
Jubako are often made of materials such as wood (some of them are coated with Urushi lacquer), synthetic resin, etc. Some of them are made of paper or ceramic. Makie-baichin-wakamatuzu-jubako by Korin OGATA is famous as an example of artistic Jubako.
Urushi lacquered Jubako are called by different names depending on their producing district.
"Jubako no sumi wo yoji de hojikuru" (Nitpicking)
"Jubako no sumi wo hojikuru" or "Jubako no sumi wo tsutsuku" (Nitpicking) (make a fuss over details)