Merchant  & Peddler CHESTS

Japanese Antique Merchant & Peddler Chests

During the Edo period the merchants persevered and prospered even as they were considered the lowest citizen class. Often merchants and artisans were located in specific cho or neighborhoods away from the warrior class households. The words cho and choba were used interchangeably to describe merchant tansu. Choba refers to the raised platform where business would often be transacted, a separate and special space often defined by a small wood fence as well

Account book chests were common to such a merchant’s “office”. Merchants ledger chests are distinctive, with stout designs and asymmetrical layout of multiple locking doors and drawers. Compartments and drawers held business documents, coins, ledger books, calligraphy supplies, abacus and even tea utensils.

These Japanese antique tansu were practical cabinets for storage and a status symbols for the shopkeeper. They can have ornate woods and hardware as in Matsumoto chests, or quiet simple designs such as Sakai style cho-dansu.

Gyosho-bako or peddler’s boxes were small cabinets which itinerant tradesmen and merchants carried up and down the highways of the day. Some were carried backpack style while others were in pairs carried by a pole across the shoulders. Peddlers sold every kind of merchandise including medicines, toiletries, hardware, pipes and stationary. These Japanese antique tansu can be quite old and are often made of sugi (cedar) and kiri (paulownia) two of the lighter weight woods. They commonly have multiple drawers secured by a hinged door and can have a lipped display space for the merchant’s goods atop the tansu.