Tansu, the Cabinetry Heritage of Japan / by Shibui

When one thinks of traditional Japan, many images come to mind: cherry blossoms, folding screens of gold, formidable swords, rustic tea bowls. These items reflect a profound depth of aesthetic concern and are infused with cultural meaning. There is a less well known subject of Japan’s aesthetic and craft heritage: its cabinetry.

Japanese antique cabinetry is known as tansu. Tansu is a collective term denoting a vast array of cabinet designs for a myriad of uses. These include ship’s strong boxes, families clothing storage, peddler’s chest and kitchen cupboards. Some tansu also functioned as a staircase. Tansu reflect what Japanese treasured and safeguarded, used daily and kept private. Tansu held swords, valuables, tea utensils, fine kimono, documents, foodstuffs and tools.

A confluence of factors unfolded during the 17th century. First was the growth of towns and with it an evolution in urban architecture. Second was the need for standardized lumber and the development of tools to fulfill that need. Third was the growth of cotton as a readily available clothing textile for the town’s masses.

These events occurred in an environment of peace, which was ushered in by the victories of Tokugawa forces after the Battle of Sekigahara and then with the fall of Osaka castle in 1615. Thereafter the Tokugawa family ruled the newly unified Japan for over 250 years. This time is referred to as the

 

http://shibui.com/chests-beddinggEdo period, named after the new capital of Edo. It was a martial society divided into four distinct classes: warrior, farmer, artisan, and merchant.

Stability and predictability were outcomes of a country finally at peace, albeit ruled under strict martial law. Castle towns, port towns and cities grew. Guilds of craftsmen and merchants became more specialized, developing from lumber broker to cabinetmaker. As urban populations grew so did the demand for new and diverse products and for the storage and safekeeping of these items.

Tansu are a good example of this specialization because Tansu are the result of the efforts of three very specialized craftsmen in their production: the cabinetmaker, hardware blacksmith and lacquer finisher.

By 1600 a new saw was commonly seen called the mae biki oga or one man rip saw. Kyoto/Kansai area blacksmiths developed this saw during the final years of the Momoyama period. It effectively allowed one man to do the work of two and doubled the production of thin boards, so necessary to the production of tansu. In addition to the rip saw the smoothing plane evolved from a pushed Chinese model into a pulled version by 1615.

Finally, cotton played its own role in the history of tansu as can be seen because the majority of tansu were for clothing storage. Cotton was first used in samurai attire but quickly spread to garments for the lower classes as its cultivation spread and affordability with it. It was easier to dye and wash and was more comfortable than hemp and paper garments.

Although the military ruled the Edo period, it was in many ways, the era of the merchant and craftsman. It was the merchant and artisan that prospered from the peace allowing them to develop the real power, economic power. By the end of the Edo period the martial society represented by the samurai was indebted and fragmented and unsettled by encroachments from the west. The restoration of the Emperor Meiji ushered in an age (1868-1912) of civilian authority and class distinctions fell to economic freedoms. Tansu developed from previous cottage industries into vital regional designs produced for ever larger markets. We know many of these designs by the towns associated with them: Sendai, Ogi, Yonezawa, Sakata, Nagoya, and Mikuni to name but a few.

By the end of the Meiji period new industrial techniques and machinery had made inroads into tansu design and compulsory public education began to thwart a tradition of learning from craftsman to apprentice. A headlong rush to imitate the industrial successes of the west would seal tansu’s fate. Taisho (1912-1926) period tansu reflected popular consumption of western dress and aesthetics. Tansu design was ever more subject to economics and industrial technique. While tansu were made into the Showa era (1926-1989) the fascinating regional designs with hand-forged iron that represented tansu’s heyday faded

Tansu is historical cabinetry created with a distinctive use of wood and iron fittings, sometimes lacquered, sometimes not. They embody Japanese aesthetic ideals such as asymmetry, rusticity, and quiet elegance, even perishability. And yet tansu have lasted the ages and have crossed an ocean. They have now influenced a generation of western craftsmen.

Tansu represent a distinct albeit overlooked chapter in Japanese craft history, indeed they were the repositories of that history as well as being players in it. Storage has never received the recognition or documentation architecture has, we hope this exhibition will open some eyes to the recognition that tansu is an integral part of Japan’s craft legacy.

David Jackson

Dane Owen

The Exhibition

NC# 1 Kuruma nagamochi 

This “rolling trunk” is the oldest piece in the exhibition. Technically it is not a tansu but is tansu’s main precursor. Nagamochi were long wooden boxes with lids and those with wheels were called kuruma nagamochi. They secured all of a family’s important possessions. Wheels signified one of tansu’s main characteristics: mobility. Even large household trunks like this one could be quickly moved in case of fires or other emergency. Fires were common in wooden homes with oil and candle-based lighting. This rolling trunk is wholly made of sugi and exhibits the finger joinery that would become the standard construction method for cabinetry. This chest is inscribed “ December- an auspicious day- Enkyo 2” (1745).

 

 

車長持ち

車長持ちは正確には箪笥とは呼べないが、箪笥の先駆けでありこの一点はこの度の展示品の中で一番古く、延享2年(1745年)に作られたことが底板に記されている。長持ちとは長い箱に蓋がついたもので、さらに底に車輪がついたものを車長持ちと呼ばれている。江戸時代は木造家屋に、夜は行灯や蝋燭で明かりをとる暮らしをしていた。そのため火事が絶えず、火事の際、家族の大切なもの一切を入れてすぐに持ち出せるようにと作られたのが車箪笥である。当時このような大きな長持ちを持つことは大変珍しく、かなり裕福な家が保持していたと思われる。総杉製。

 

NC#2 Kuruma dansu

This tansu has wheels with built-in axles similar to the adjacent rolling trunk. It is a merchant’s chest and acted as a ledger chest for account book storage and other items of daily business. It is stoutly built with mortise and tenon framing with a single kiriwood drawer. Additional interior drawers are secured by the sliding doors effectively creating a large safe below. This chest dates from the late Edo period and is from Echigo, now part of Niigata Prefecture.

車簞笥

幕末に越後(現 新潟県)地方で作られた小型の帳場車箪笥。商人に必要な大福帳、そろばん、果ては金銭もしまったと思われる鍵のついた引き出しが、引き戸を開けると内蔵されている。技術的には嵌め込み式のつなぎが角に見ることができ、木工好きにはたまらない一点。

 

NC#4 Inventory tansu

As towns prospered in the ensuing peace of the Edo period (1615-1867), the merchant class took full advantage of the opportunities. Stores opened and as businesses grew, even opened branch locations in other cities. Cabinetry was needed for the merchant’s inventory, some were built-in (perhaps by the finish carpenter on site) and others were made up of two stacking chests and capable of being moved (made by the joiner at his workshop). This division of labor and trade represents the beginning of tansu. This Kyushu merchant’s chest has distinctive kakute (square) forged iron handles and an array of drawers in graduated sizes and sugi wood throughout.

九州帳場簞笥

江戸時代の大店で使われたと思われる帳場箪笥。江戸商人の成功が伺える大きさである。在庫の品や大切なドキュメントなどを仕舞った大型の箪笥で、緊急時にも持ち運びが楽にできるよう、重ねになっている。大店には店を作るときに備え付けで作られた箪笥や棚もよく見られる。九州地方で作られたこの箪笥の鉄製角手の取手デザインが装飾的にも美しい。

 

Merchants tansu

 

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 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.

帳場簞笥

江戸時代の商人は最下級の身分であった。商人や職人は地域も分けられ、侍の住む地域から離れた所に商人町があった。帳場簞笥とは、その名の通り商家の帳場で使われた簞笥で、大福帳(現 帳簿)はもちろん、そろばんや証文、筆と墨、金銭も保管されていた。そのため引き出しや引き戸が違うサイズでいくつもあり、それぞれに鍵前が付いている。引き戸の中にはまた鍵付きの引き出しがあり、特に大事な物を保管していた事が伺える。

 

 

NC #5 Choba-dansu

This ledger tansu is from Omi, in what is now Shiga prefecture. Omi was a prosperous town located along the Nakasendo, the second major highway of the Edo period. It does evidence design influences from Sakai and Kyoto in terms of its configuration and stout iron ring handles.

This chest is made from stained and waxed hinoki (cypress) and sugi (cedar) with hand forged iron fittings and handles.

帳場簞笥

江戸時代商人で栄えた近江地方の帳場簞笥。東海道の次に栄えた中山道が通っていた事もあり、大阪の堺、京都のデザインが取り入れられているのが特徴。よく磨かれた檜と杉製。鍛造(たんぞう)の取手が付いている。

 

NC #6 Cho-dansu

The chest before us is from Osaka and has a little of both elements. The rich wood grain of keyaki panels and hikite (door pulls) of the sliding doors are quite beautiful and contrast with the overall plain front of kiri wood drawers.

The lower chest was the chest for security and evidences an array of lockable drawers. The lowest compartment has three further drawers behind the sliding doors. A secret compartment is accessed through a panel, which looks like a cabinet frame member and hides two more slim drawers. The cabinet case is made from sugi. Meiji era 1868-1912.

帳箪笥

この帳箪笥は大変珍しい組み合わせとデザインで、明治時代に作られた貴重な一点といえよう。重ねの下部分が典型的関西の帳場の形をしており、普通よりも多くの引き出しが付いていると同時に、ほとんどの引き出しに錠前が付いている。さらに欅前の引き戸を開けると、引き出しの間の仕切りの裏には細い引き出しがかくされていて、隠し金庫になっている。ところが重ねの上部分の箪笥には鍵がまったく付いておらず、関西の衣装箪笥のデザインをしているのが面白い。興味の尽きない一点。

 

Peddlers Boxes

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 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.

行商箱

行商箱とは、その名の通り商人が行商に歩いた際背負われた、または天秤棒に下げて肩に担がれた、引き出しのついた小型の箱である。江戸時代には薬、金物、下駄、パイプと煙草、文房具、洗面用具、蕎麦や魚介、夏には金魚や団扇など、さまざまな行商が盛んであった。ほとんどの行商箱は軽くあるために杉や桐で作られていることが多く、安全のため鍵の付いた開き戸で中の引き出しが守られている。

 

 

NC #7 Gyosho-bako

This tall peddler’s box from Omi, Shiga Prefecture was used for stationary and is made entirely of kiri wood with iron fittings. Late Edo, circa 1830-1850.

行商箱

この、江戸後期に近江地方(現 滋賀県)で作られた総桐行商箪笥は、中の引き出しの見出しに美しい筆書きで、文房具を扱っていたと思われる名称が記されている。

 

 

NC #8 Gyosho bako

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This smaller peddler’s chest exhibits a case made from sugi with wiped lacquer and interior drawers of kiri wood. A hinged door secures 7 drawers. It has iron fittings, which strengthened the cabinet including a full height iron strap at the rear depicting bamboo. From Hokuriku, late Edo period, early 19th century.

行商箱

江戸後期に北陸地方で作られた、杉製で吹き漆仕上げの更に小型の行商箱。鍵のついた開き戸が中の7つの引き出しを守っている。この行商箱は背中の部分に力強い鉄製の竹のデザインが装飾され、この箱の強度を増す役割もしている。

 

Kaidan dansu

 

 

Kaidan dansu, literally a cabinet that functioned as stairs- has a long and varied history dating back at least to 1700. It is a design unique to Japan and an ingenious solution to storage need and second story access. The first areas to have common second story buildings were the merchant and geisha districts of Kyoto and Osaka. Thus the first documented or illustrated kaidan dansu come from woodblock print books from the Kansai vicinity inclusive of these cities. Kaidan dansu often exhibit two stacking sections and were built for specific spaces in machiya- a home and business under one roof- where space was at a premium.

 

 

階段簞笥

 

階 段簞笥の歴史は意外に古く、1700年代には既に存在していた事が多くの資料から解っている。階段としての機能とその下の空間に物を仕舞うという機能を満 たした、大変賢い、日本ならではのデザインである。階段簞笥発祥の地は商人の町大阪と、町家のある京都からだと思われる。浮世絵版画の中で描写されている 階段簞笥で、殆ど全て関西地域の町家か商人の風景の中に出てきている。浮世絵版画は箪笥を研究する上での貴重な資料である。

 

 

NC#3 Kaidan dansu

Kaidan dansu or literally stair-chests are a fascinating resolution to the dual needs of second story access and storage. They were indeed used as stairs, as well as storage for lamps, textiles and other household goods. Kaidan dansu developed from ladder-cabinetry hybrids. Early step-chests were built-in and called hako kaidan. They evolved into freestanding cabinetry.This stout example of Kaidan dansu is an early Meiji era chest from the Kansai vicinity. It is quite deep and exhibits a tall closet secured by a hinged door. It is finished in wiped lacquer with kakute iron handles.

階段簞笥

階 段箪笥の魅力はなんといっても2階へ上がるという用途と、物を仕舞うというもうひとつの用途を達成している点である。もともとは梯子があり、その下に箱型 の階段が動かないように家屋の一部として建てられ、箱階段と呼ばれていた。その後ほとんどの階段箪笥は、見かけは家屋の一部のように見えるが、箪笥として 動かせるようになっているのが特徴である。こちらは明治の初めに大阪地方で作られた、奥行きが深く、開き戸のついた拭き漆仕上げの重ね階段箪笥である。

 

NC # 14 Kaidan dansu

This Meiji era kaidan dansu comes from Fukui prefecture and exhibits a wiped lacquer finish in two colors, a transparent red and opaque black. The woods are sugi for the framing and panels and keyaki for drawer faces. The drawer handles of forged iron are in a simplified mokko or melon vine pattern.

階段簞笥

明治時代に福井地方で作られた階段簞笥。拭き漆が黒と朱で仕上げられており、時代を感じさせる一点。引き出し全面は欅で、他は杉が使われている。木瓜(もっこう)型の鉄の取手が全体を面白く見せている。

 

 

Mizuya

Kitchen cupboard. Mizuya actually means “place of cold water” and the derivation of the term is from the “kitchen“ space in a traditional teahouse where utensils were cleaned

Mizuya became the colloquial expression of kitchen tansu. Sometimes see the terms todana or daidokoro todana literally “kitchen cupboard” used for these tansu as well. Such cupboards held ceramics, lacquer wares, utensils for dining, and even cookbooks. The Edo period saw not just an evolution in cabinetry but in cooking as well.

Urban markets saw a greater variety of foods, oven design evolved, there was a growth in restaurants, and the first published cookbooks became available. Kitchen cupboards were thus needed and became a regional specialty especially in towns surrounding Lake Biwa. They were generally made from two stacking sections and can be three, four, six and even 9 feet wide. Frame and panel construction was common for these larger chests with prized woods such as keyaki or persimmon incorporated into the door panel and drawer faces in some regional styles.

水屋簞笥

水屋簞笥とは水場で使う簞笥という意味であるが、もともとは、茶の湯の世界で茶道具を清めるため、茶室の横に作られた場所を水屋と呼び、その派生で台所に使った棚物を水屋簞笥と呼ぶに至った。江戸時代には多くの簞笥の進化が見られるが、水屋簞笥も例外ではない。都市部の市場が豊かになると、食生活も豊かになり、外食も盛んになって、最初の料理本が出版されたのも江戸時代であった。特に琵琶湖周辺の近江地方では、重ねの水屋簞笥に黒柿や欅で全面を飾られた豪華な作りに、大きいものでは幅9尺(約3メートル)もある水屋簞笥が多く使われた。

 

NC #9 Mizuya dansu

This tansu is from the Kyoto vicinity and exhibits ornate cutouts in the screened doors securing the “pie safe” compartment, used just as it was in the west, to store food items. The grain of the woods in the door panels and drawer fronts is highlighted by wiped lacquer.

京都水屋簞笥

典型的京都の水屋簞笥。食べ物を一時置いておく、今で言う網戸が付いた引き戸つきの戸棚が付いている。表部分は吹き漆仕上げになっていて、上品である。

 

 

 

Kanto style clothing chests

In the Kanto plain, Edo (now Tokyo), was by the early eighteenth century, was one of the most populous cities in the world. The cabinetry favored by its wealthy and powerful residents was a stacking chest on chest with double doors on the top cabinet, which secured drawers inside, and a bottom cabinet with two drawers. A small safe-like compartment was also seen as in this example.

Kanto tansu were produced both in Edo and the surrounding towns. Kiri or paulownia was the favored wood of this cabinetry. These chests were often given as wedding gifts and it is said that they were first popularized by being a favored gift to entertainers in the pleasure districts of the day. They went through a number of design changes and by the Meiji period had lost the two-hinged upper doors.

 

 

関東衣装簞笥

観音開きの桐衣装箪笥は、江戸の町で普及し、広くは関東平野一帯で使われた。鍵付きの観音開きの扉を開けると、中の引き出しには再度留めが付いていて、着物が二重に守られていた様子が伺える。江戸時代に着物は大変高価で貴重なものとして扱われ、今回出展している衣装箪笥を見てもわかるように、ほぼすべての引き出しに錠前が付いている。明治時代になると、観音開きの衣装箪笥は見られなくなる。

 

 

 

 

NC #10 Kanto style isho-dansu

This Kanto isho-dansu exhibits distinctive hardware with iron strapping and a central iron lock plate on the upper doors inscribed with a family crest. This ivy leaf or tsuta, crest or mon is historically associated with the Matsudaira family. This tansu is wholly fashioned from kiri wood or paulownia with a wiped lacquer finish. Circa 1850, Late Edo period.

関東衣装簞笥

江戸後期に作られた、関東地方の観音開き衣装簞笥。上部真ん中の鍵前部分に、大きな鉄製の蔦家紋が装飾されている。この蔦の家紋は松平家で使われた事でよく知られている。総桐製で全体が拭き漆で仕上げられている。

 

 

NC #11 Sendai isho-dansu

The town of Sendai produced tansu from about 1850 into the 1930’s.The proverbial Sendai design is a large single section rectangular chest with a full width upper drawer faced with floral patterned lock plates and central safe compartment on the right side. Early Sendai chests are however a simpler design and rare, one appears before you here.

This early Sendai chest has a squarish design and exhibits a lower single drawer addition made to add height. This hardware has incised floral lock plates depicting chrysanthemum and hand forged iron handles. The chrysanthemum has a long association with the Japanese Emperor and hence is a favorite floral design in hardware. Instead of a central safe two small drawers are to the right. It is made of keyaki with wiped lacquer. The case is sugi.

仙台衣装簞笥

1850年代から1930年頃迄、仙台で簞笥が盛んに作られていた。仙台簞笥の特徴は横に長方形の大きな一竿物で、上段の大きな引き出し正面には、草花がデザインされた鍵前と、中心部の右側に鍵前の付いた金庫が付いているのも特徴である。

ここに展示されている仙台箪笥は初期のころのもので、長方形型の低い一竿箪笥に、一段分の引き出しが底部分に加えられて、少し高くなっている。錠前のデザインには菊の花が鍛造されており、菊は皇族を表す文様として、特に日本人好みの文様である。右側に中央部には金庫代わりに、錠前つきの引き出しが付いている。前欅で、引き出しの中は杉、拭き漆仕上げ。

 

 

 

NC #12 Tsuruoka isho-dansu with bo

 

 

This single section chest is from the town of Tsuruoka and was traditionally given as a bridal present. It is distinctive due to its opaque black lacquer and use of embossed hardware. Tsuruoka is located along the Japan Sea coast in the Shonai plain in northwest Yamagata prefecture. The chest has a large locking bar that is ornately covered with iron fittings.

 

 

 

 

The hardware depicts auspicious symbols of crane, long tailed tortoise, pine, plum blossom and bamboo. This was apt imagery for a bridal chest as it symbolized longevity, fertility, strength and perserverence. The locking bar also depicts a five circle family crest; it is a stylized plum blossom design.

Below, the decorative and symbolic depictions continue with drawer lock plates of kirin a mythical beast associated with protection and prosperity and on the safe a beautifully wrought scene of cranes amidst pine boughs. The handle style is warabi-te, or bracken hand referring to a curled up young fern.

 

 

 

 

鶴岡衣装簞笥

山形県庄内地方に位置する鶴岡は、特に婚礼用の衣装箪笥を多く産出した所である。黒光りした溜塗りの漆と、打ち出しで3Dのように見える鉄製飾りが特徴で、大変ドラマチックな箪笥である。棒箪笥とは、一つ一つに錠前をつける代わりに、棒でいくつかの引き出しに鍵をかけたもの。この婚礼衣装箪笥には、打ち出しの家紋、松、鶴、亀などで埋め尽くされたお目出度尽くしである。蕨手の取手も美しい。

 

 

NC #13 Sakata isho-dansu

 

This clothing chest is from Sakata, a port town located at the mouth of the Mogami River along the Japan Sea coast. Sakata was known as a center for ship’s chest production but the skilled craftsmen of the town also made wedding tansu. The drawer fronts exhibits stunning keyaki wood grain, all of which were sawn from one flitch. The dark iron lock plates, and hand forged handles visually connect to the black lacquer surround providing a quiet contrast to the chest drawer fronts finished in clear lacquer. Meiji era, circa 1880-1900.

 

 

酒田衣装簞笥

山形県庄内地方酒田で作られた簞笥。最上川が日本海へと流れ込むこの地方は北前船の寄港地でもあり、船簞笥が作られた事でも知られる。また結婚衣装簞笥を作るすぐれた職人も多くいた。引き出しは、美しい拭き漆欅表の、見事な木目の表れた一枚板でできており、そこに黒く光る鍛造の取手がコントラストとして映えている。明治初期。

 

NC #15 Takayama temoto dansu with bo

This medium scaled tansu is a women’s personal chest from the mountain town of Takayama in Gifu Prefecture. Takayama tansu exhibit a distinctive use of shunkei lacquer which is yellow-orange that turns a beautiful orange brown or red orange with age. Tansu from this town also have a distinctive frame and panel construction technique used on drawer fronts. The drawers evidence only small circular lock plates without any iron handles. Instead a small recessed finger hold is found beneath the drawer’s top frame member.

In some Takayama personal tansu such as this example the upper sliding doors are finished with small delicate ink paintings. In this case a floral motif stretches across both doors. A locking bar secures drawers below and the drawer handle style is the serpentine hiru-te or “leech style”.

 

高山手許簞笥

岐阜県高山地方で作られた春慶塗が美しい棒手許箪笥。大変女性的で、女性が手許に置いて愛しんだと思われる一点。高山箪笥の特徴は鮮やかな春慶塗りと、引き出しの引き手部分に取手をつけず、指が入るような縁のある引き出しが付いていることである。棒で止められた部分の引き出しはヒル手の華奢な取手でこれも全体を上品に見せている。高山箪笥は現在でも大変人気で、オークションでもなかなか出てこないので貴重である。

NC #16 Yonezawa Isho-dansu

 

The town of Yonezawa in southeast Yamagata prefecture was a center for tansu production from the late Edo period. It is known for kuruma dansu - rolling chests, but many fine clothing chests were also produced there also. Lock plates are distinctive with a preference for ornate designs depicting a stylized butterfly or cherry blossoms and decorative corner hardware depicting tea seedpods.

This particular tansu is exceptional in that it is built almost entirely of keyaki or elm and a wiped lacquer finish overall. The drawer interiors are made of sugi. These stout chests are heavy and depict fine wood grain on the cabinet sides and top indicative that one long board was used for the construction. Handles are in the cast iron melon vine style. Meiji period 1868-1912.

 

 

米沢衣装簞笥

山形県米沢地方は江戸後期には簞笥の生産で大変栄えた町。米沢車簞笥で有名な所でもあるが、良質の衣装簞笥が多く作られた事でも知られている。鉄の鍵飾りには、蝶々や桜などの図柄が使われ、大胆かつ華麗なデザイン。引き出しの四隅には、多く茶の実のデザインが見られるのも特徴。

この米沢簞笥は大部分が欅製で、全体が拭き漆仕上げとなっておる。引き出し内部は杉製。上部の一枚板から横面の木も、厚くて木目の美しい欅が使われており、大変重い。取手は木瓜(もっこう)型。明治時代。

 

NC # 17 Sakata kiri dansu

 

 

This is another popular clothing chest style from the town of Sakata. Instead of a tansu that used keyaki (elm) and wiped lacquer this style uses plain kiri wood as the predominant wood. Contrasting thick iron hardware makes for a captivating design. This tansu is a chest on chest as was usual with clothing tansu and exhibits stout handles on the side for portability. The distinctive locks are a stylized chrysanthemum flower design.

 

 

 

NC #18 Ogi isho-dansu

 

 

Ogi is a town on Sado Island off the coast of Niigata Prefecture. Ogi was known for large imposing clothing chests and a population of renowned craftsmen. Like Sakata it also was a center for ship’s chest production. This tansu is a rare and very fine example depicting large cloud patterned lock plates and decorative corner hardware distinctive to the town.

 

 

 

Ogi chests also exhibit an unusual iron banding along the front edges of the cabinet. The keyaki drawers are finished in clear lacquer over a red stain. The case of sugi has wiped lacquer. Handles are in the warabi-te or “bracken hand “style.

小木衣装簞笥

新潟県佐渡島の小木町は大型の衣装簞笥と簞笥職人の集まる町として知られていた。特に今回ここに展示するこの衣装簞笥は大型で状態もよく、小木簞笥の中でも大変貴重な一点。

特に鍵前部分の装飾と、引き出し四隅の装飾がすばらしく、ここに小木の鍛冶職人の技が見て取れる。また欅に朱を施し、透け漆で表を仕上げ、鉄と木と漆の三位一体が感じられる。蕨手の取手もよく出来ている。見事な技術である。

 

NC #19 Taisho era isho dansu

The Taisho era (1912-1926) saw a mix of traditional tansu designs mingling with many of the new industrial techniques from the west. This clothing chest depicts simple round lock plates where the key both locks and unlocks the drawer, different from earlier locks with floriate buttons. Interior drawers also exhibit cutout handles facilitating removal. Note the recessed handles and hardware on the chest sides, the handles on the lower chest side capture the upper tansu. While less obtrusive, these handles are also less functional, alluding to the new, more sedentary, life of tansu.

Overall the tansu exhibits a simple asymmetrical beauty alluding to a previous era. It has some beautiful kuwa or mulberry wood in the drawers and each drawer exhibits banding of contrasting sakura (cherry wood). This drawer construction is unusual for tansu. The case is sakura with wiped lacquer. Drawer interiors are sugi and sakura.

大正衣装簞笥

大正に入ると、西洋式近代的生産型と伝統的な技術が丁度ミックスしたような簞笥が多くなる。まず、鍵穴が小さくシンプルになり、以前に見られたような鉄製の吉祥模様などは見られなくなる。

NC # 20 Showa era isho dansu

This is a three-section stacking kiri clothing chest. This imminently practical design rapidly became the dominate twentieth century style especially after the Kanto earthquake of 1923.The style originated in Osaka but was adopted and evolved as Tokyo rebuilt itself and cabinetry once again filled homes.

This style tansu had both drawers and a series of trays in the central compartment secured by hinged doors. An open cupboard is uppermost with full width drawers below. The trays allude to the influence of western style clothing which many urban residents adopted in the late Meiji and Taisho eras. Even as such clothing fads faded the Japanese liked the trays for smaller garments and the design stayed popular.

The hardware is industrially produced as was usual with tansu produced after about 1915 and into the mid-twentieth century. Kiri wood is used throughout.

昭和衣装簞笥

3段重ねの総桐衣装簞笥。観音開きの衣装簞笥から派生し、大阪で生産が始まり、関東大震災以後東京でも多く生産、使用されることになる。観音開きを開けると、トレイ式の引き出しが付いていて、多くは着物用に作られたが、明治以降、都市部では洋服も盛んに取り入れられ、和洋兼用の衣装簞笥となる。取手部分も機械で大量生産されたシンプルなデザインとなる。

Ships Chests

Ship’s tansu were a ship’s safe, desks, and clothing chests for boats plying their trade along coastal Japan Sea routes known as the kitamaesen. It was apt symbol of the stout spirit of these ships captains and boat owners and held valuable documents such as passports, and business licenses, seals and money.

 

The kakesuzuri style is the oldest ship’s chest design and can be seen in regional variations from about 1800. The name of the chest derives from the suzuri-bako or inkstone box common to businesses and shops on land. Common to most is a cube like design with a large hinged front door.

The Cho-bako style is a ship’s strongbox, it’s name means “merchant box” and is the second most prevalent style. The cho-bako style had the greatest number of variations of drawers, doors and secret compartments configurations. Some were a maze of false doors and boxes inside of boxes. These characteristics evidenced a pride in workmanship and thwarted theft.Cho-bako sea chests were made in port towns like Ogi on Sado Island, Sakata in Yamagata, and Mikuni on the Noto peninsula.

船簞笥

船簞笥とは北前船が日本の主要運輸機関であった頃のみに生産された、船内へ持ち込まれた簞笥である。金庫、文机、衣装簞笥と用途も様々であった。船長が愛用した船簞笥は、まさに彼らの精神的シンボルとして作られていると同時に、力の強弱、祈り、廻船問屋の権力などがその匠に見る事が出来る。

懸硯型(かけすずり)が初期の船簞笥の形で、この懸硯の名前は、帳場で手提げ型の持ち運びができる、墨や筆を入れた硯箱から来たと思われる。四角い箱形で、前面は全体が開きの扉になっている。

帳箱型船箪笥は、懸硯型の次に多く見られる船箪笥である。帳箱船箪笥には多くの引き出しや、仕掛け、隠し箱などが見られるのが特徴。職人技の極みであると同時に、泥棒を寄せ付けない知恵でもある。殆どの帳箱船簞笥は佐渡島の小木という町で作られたもので、当時山形の酒田、福井の三国とともに、北前船寄港地として大変栄えていた町である。

NC #21 Kakesuzuri style funa dansu

 

This ship’s chest tansu is an early version of the squarish design known as “inkstone box style”. Such chests held money and important papers of the seaman-merchant. This style, can be seen as early as1800 and represents the earliest ship’s chest design. This example has simple iron cross straps bracing a sugi cedar front door and case. This door secures a traditional interior configuration of kirwood drawers.

懸硯船簞笥

1800年代に作られた、懸硯船箪笥の初期のデザイン。杉製。北前船で以後力を持つことになる船長の初期の金庫であり、貴重な書類をしまった箪笥。このころはシンプルな鉄のデザインが前板に施され、中の引き出しは船箪笥の特徴である桐でできている。

 

NC #22 Kakesuzuri style funa dansu

This chest and others like it were made on Sado Island and were constructed in keyaki (elm) with finely wrought metal fittings and hardware. The iron fittings on the door consist of incised bamboo, pine and plum motifs, symbols of longevity and endurance.

Iron hardware was not just decorative but strengthened the wood joinery of the cabinet box and was symbolic of the wealth of the chests owner. This particular chest exhibits the central vertical hardware on the door known as obi-kanagu or sash hardware. Brass fittings denoting family name or business trademarks were often placed in the circular holes at the top and bottom. On this chest the trademark is actually on the side of the tansu.

The chest interior consists of small drawers made of kiri wood (paulownia) with keyaki (elm) drawer faces. A secret coin box is located at the rear of one drawer.

 

懸硯船簞笥

北前船が主要な流通機関になり、船長が大変力を持った時代の象徴的懸硯型船箪笥。箪笥の前面には船長の力を象徴するようなデザインが、重厚な鉄のモチーフによって装飾されているのが特徴。中央に帯状に施された鉄の飾りの丸く開いた部分には真鍮製の家紋や廻船問屋の屋号などが入れられていた。この箪笥に見られる松竹梅のデザインも吉祥を表すものである。

当時、船箪笥の多くは新潟県の佐渡で作られ、この一点も佐渡の指物師、鉄師、漆職人の合作である。欅が表を覆い、中の引き出し部分は桐でできてい

 

NC #23 Cho-bako style funa dansu

This chest is from Sado Island. It has one large drop-fit (kendon buta) door beneath a top drawer. This panel door secures drawers within and a “waterproof“ kiri box within a box.

The interior is made of kiri wood and all drawer fronts and case is keyaki. Iron fittings include thick iron locks, decorative corner hardware and strapping which reinforces the case joinery. Handles are in the kaku-te style or “square-hand” save for the side handles which are warabi-te or “bracken hand”.

This chest is inscribed on the base: Heisaburo Miyamoto - Boat Owner - Noto.  Made in Ogi - Sado Island  - Meiji 20 (1888) September 18th. 

 

帳箱船簞笥

佐渡で作られた見事な帳箱船簞笥。欅表のはめ込み式のけんどん蓋に加え、中の表も全て欅、見えない中は全て桐製。特に何重にも作られた桐の引き出しは、たとえ水に浸かるような事態になった時も、桐の層が浸水を防ぐ仕組みになっている優れものである。

 

 




NC # 24 Katana dansu with bo

Even low-level samurai required a chest for swords and fittings. This example is made of kiri (paulownia tomentosa) which is the favored wood for storage of precious items. Kiri wood beautiful grain, golden brown color and over time attains its own patina from use and oxidation. The locking bar or bo secures two drawers. Bos were originally an efficient and cost saving way to secure multiple drawers when handmade lock plates were expensive. But one can also see them as compositional elements of attractive design as in this tansu.

 

 

桐刀簞笥

たとえ下級武士であっても、刀をしまう箱または箪笥を持たなくてはならなかった。

多くの下級武士はこの刀箪笥のように素朴な桐木地のものであった。時とともに木につやが出て渋みが感じられる。桐は中の湿度を一定に保つ特性があり、特に錆びやすい刀の保管には桐が使われた。奥行きはは浅く、横に細長く、ほとんどが3段くらいの引き出しというデザインが多い。左右が非対称である日本の箪笥デザインは、棒や鍵つきの金庫箱などが付いているにもかかわらずシンプルで美しい。