Nagoya Paulownia Chests

It seems likely that the making of this distinctive style of paulownia chest was begun in Nagoya by craftsmen who, having been involved in the building of Nagoya castle some 400 years ago, settled there and began making chest of drawers and chests.
After the country was unified by the Tokugawa Shogunate, the economy stabilized and life in general was peaceful. As a result there was an enormous increase in the production of cloth and people became much better dressed. Even the ordinary person was able to afford good quality clothing and a new form of functional, easy to use storage for these fine clothes became necessary. The development of this craft in Nagoya was further stimulated by the fact that it was close to the region of Hida where there were rich supplies of timber, Hida paulownia being one of the best in the country.

Compared to similar chests produced elsewhere in Japan, these are about 20 cm wider, and the stair-like nobori-tansu have a small drawer in the bottom right. Many chests are very elaborate. Some have gold or silver colored fittings; and on one of the doors, fukuroto, a design is laid down in gold leaf, or maki-e natural lacquer decorations.


Compared to works from other regions, these chests are approximately 20 cm wider, and there is a small drawer at the lower right side of the chest of drawers. Metal fittings are colored gold or silver, and the "fukuroto" sliding door often has gold leaf or lacquer designs painted on it. In this way, many examples of this craft are luxurious.

How to make

The manufacturing process is divided into major categories of: forming the lumber, timber conversion, processing, ornamentation, and attaching the fittings. Over 130 steps are completed by a single craftsman. Solid paulownia wood is used, and the wood is joined using traditional box joint techniques, then polished with a broom corn scrubber called an "uzukuri", painted with a mixture of polishing powder and alnus firma liquid, then polished with wax.