This tea set, signed for Hasegawa, has twelve cups and saucers, a teapot, sugar bowl, and a milk jug. Each of the teacups is decorated with a scene of everyday life that represents a month of the year, such as people working, playing and celebrating, while the larger components of the set depict people enjoying games. Satsuma wares were often decorated with scenes that were intended to illustrate both traditional skills and ways of life in Japan.
During the Meiji period (1868-1912), when this tea set was created, Japan was taking advantage of the new trading links with the West that were established after the end of almost two hundred years of seclusion. As a result, enthusiasm for Japanese art and crafts, known commonly as Japonisme, became widespread and had a profound effect on Western art and design. At the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1867, the Japanese pavilion featured 145 exhibitors, and included a large display of objects from Satsuma, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands. Following the success of the exhibition, Satsuma wares, that are characterised by intricate painted decoration, were exported on a large scale to Europe and America.