This zara (tray) is made of a vermilion-red lacquer with images of pine needles in gold and green at the center. Pine needles represent resilience—they are one of the "three friends of winter," along with plum blossoms and bamboo, all of which grow during the winter in spite of cold temperatures. The wood grain is evident under the lacquer, which may have been intentionally decorative as the areas around the handles at each end are smooth. This tray may have been used to carry food and utensils or to serve a meal directly (like a place mat or plate).
Lacquerware are objects decoratively covered with lacquer, a somewhat imprecise term for a clear or colored wood finish that dries by solvent evaporation. The lacquer is sometimes inlaid or carved. Lacquerware includes boxes, tableware, buttons and even coffins painted with lacquer in cultures mostly in the Eastern Asia. Today, lacquerware is produced throughout the Japanese archipelago, with many regional techniques and variations.