This is a large antique fukusa, Japanese gift cover, 34 inches long and 26 inches wide, without including the tassels. The lid of the wooden box (hiro buta) that carried gifts was often placed upside down to display the gifts. The length of the Fukusa may have been adjusted for the tray.
The design of this Fukusa is based on the old Japanese folk tale, Yoro(Yohro) Waterfall. The waterfall was known as the Fountain of Youth and instead of water falling, Sake wine was falling. Whoever drank the Sake turned young again. In the story, a good son was rewarded with a fountain of Sake when he went to look for water for his father. The father became young and healthy again when he drank the sake from the gourd.
The second story, based on this old tale, relates to the design of the fukusa. The title “An Envoy beside the Yoro Waterfall” is of Chokushi, the emperor's special messenger, being sent by the emperor to investigate the fountain of Youth. There are many Fukusas showing a gourd and hinting a bottle of Sake wine. This may have a lot to do with Japan being a farming country up until recently. The crops were directly affected by nature (draft, floods, etc.), so the rituals were held within their own communities and fresh crops were offered to god. To irrigate and lay the roads, they needed to better their work relationship. The custom of eating and drinking together in business today has a deep root from this early time.
This design is very similar to the Chinese “Li Bai (Li Po) beside the Waterfall on Mount Lu” which you may find on other fukusas. The occasion for this fukusa may be sons wishing their fathers a joyous life after retirement, recovery from sickness or something similar to that.
26 inches x 34 inches
Silk satin lined with deep red crepe silk
Circa late Edo (1603-1868) to Meiji period (1868-1912)