The original form of a Japanese sliding panel (fusuma), as it first appeared in the 8th to 9th centuries, had no pulls: the frame was used to slide the panel open and closed. The first known architectural fitting applied to a sliding panel was in the 13th century, or Kamakura period (1192-1333). It was not until the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598), when the Japanese tea ceremony was established, that elaborate designs were given to sliding panels and pulls (Hikite). Hikite became an important element of interior decoration, and this period produced many elaborately decorated pulls.
Although there are a few early examples of Japanese cloisonné enamels on small door fittings — used in the Phoenix Hall (1053) of the Byōdōin Temple (Kyoto), and by shōgun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1436-1490) in his Higashiyama retreat (now the Ginkakuji temple in Eastern Kyoto)— it was not until the late sixteenth century that cloisonné enamels became more widely used in Japan, primarily on architectural fittings, hikite(sliding panel pulls), and kugi-kakushi(nail covers).
The majority of the hikite in the E.R. Butler & Co. archive are from the Edo period (1603-1868), many of them gilded bronze with decorative cloisonné enamel; earlier pieces from the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598) use an enameling technique known as champlevé. Later pieces of the collection date to the Meiji period (1868–1912).