Iwayado Tansu (wooden chests)

Country: Japan

The origins of Iwayado Tansu date back to the end of the eighteenth century when the custodian of Iwayado castle had his retainers look into the commercial possibilities of such pieces of wooden furniture as chests with lids and others riding on palettes fitted with wheels.

Corresponding to present-day Esashi City, Iwayado had a long tradition of metal casting and woodcraft because it was the stronghold of Kiyohira. He was a first generation Oshu Fujiwara who established the Hiraizumi culture at the end of the Heian period (794-1185) but lived in Iwayado for thirty years before moving to Hiraizumi.

The chests are made of zelkova (Zelkova serrata) and paulownia (Paulownia Sieb. et Zucc.) and main facings are lacquered before being fitted with beautiful hand cut and beaten sturdy metal fittings. In some cases, these chests function as safes and have locks, and are one of Japan’s most representative traditional chests. Mainly fitted with draws, these chests come in a variety of sizes.

Wood from trees such as the zelkova and paulownia serve as the basic raw material for Iwayado chests. The wood is finished with lacquer and then set with hand-hammered and engraved metal finishings possessing a strong, durable beauty. As the chests sometimes serve as a safe, metal finishings with locks are also used. Iwayado chests serve as majestic, traditional representatives of Japan’s long chest and drawer making craft.

After natural drying, and then additional artificial drying, pure, solid boards are used to make the chests. Only boards with a thickness greater than 18 mm are used to assemble the drawers. After the chest is assembled, the surface is first rubbed with a clear lacquer and then finished with a clear kijiro-nuri lacquer, and finally, the hand-hammered metal finishings are applied.

Further reading

Iwayado Tansu – Japanese Traditional Furniture

This entry is referenced from the website of The Association for the Promotion of Traditional Craft Industries.