”Monma Tansuten” – Sendai ”tansu” loved by the ”samurai” of the Sendai clan

”Monma Tansuten”
- Sendai ”tansu” loved by the ”samurai” of the Sendai clan

What is ”Sendai tansu”

”Sendai tansu” is said to be have started in the late Edo period. It developed as a local industry of the Sendai clan. ”Tansu” was used by ”samurai” to store swords or clothing. A typical ”tansu” is approximately 120cm wide and 90cm tall, but nowadays, tansu of various sizes are produced due to customer demand.
While the ”tansu” is actually not very big, it is magnificent and has a strong presence. Woodworking joints that takes advantage of the characteristics of the wood, lacquering to enhance the beautiful grain of the wood, and above all, the hand embossed metal fittings with motifs of dragons and lions; these elements are what catches the eye.
”These metal fittings are handmade by artisans, and they represent the social status or lineage of each family”, explained Kazuhiro Monma, the seventh generation of Monma Tansuten which creates ”Sendai tansu”.

A showroom that is designated a Cultural Property

Monma Tansuten was founded in 1872 by Tamisaburo Monma, who was the appointed craftsman for the Sendai clan, and has a history of over 140 years. The company has its own lacquer craftsmen and joiners, and produces and sells ”tansu” on-site.
The former family house which was used until two generations ago, is now used as a showroom so people can see how Sendai ”tansu” can be used in everyday life. The house is designated a National Cultural Property.

”Sendai tansu” used to often be a part of dowry or a trousseau.
”But you don’t hear about dowries, nowadays.” Nakata commented.
”That’s true. But many people still use ”tansu”. Recently, smaller sized ”tansu” is popular. And we often get orders to repair older ones.”
Some ”tansu” have been used for more than 100 years. The surface of old ”tansu” is shaved and re-lacquered, making it beautiful and shiny just like new. Looking ahead to the next 100 years, Monma Tnasuten is recruiting and training young craftsmen.

30 steps in lacquering

As previously mentioned, one of the beautiful features of ”Sendai tansu” is the lacquering. Presently, there are various ways ”tansu” is lacquered based on the customer’s wishes, but traditional ”Sendai tansu” uses ”kijiro-nuri” method, which enhances the beauty of the grain of the wood. There are about 30 steps in this process. Painting, sanding and polishing. All 30 steps require delicate work. And ”tansu” is very big. Everything is done by hand, so the lacquer painting alone takes months. The customers are aware of this, and they are willing to wait when ordering a ”Sendai tansu”.

In the workshop, we observed the repairing process. The scarred or damaged surface is shaved clean, and the lacquer applied. Lacquer is applied many times, and then the lacquered surface is sanded and polished. It is very delicate work, and everything changes depending on the finish.
”Sendai tansu is intended to be used for 50 or even 100 years.” says Monma. He is carrying on a tradition which has 140 years of history since its foundation.

But it doesn’t end there. Monma Tansuten is releasing a series of new products with the present lifestyle and future in mind. They are taking on new challenges to create new products such as wine racks and modern furniture in collaboration with designers, using 140 years of craftsmanship. Tradition is truly passed on when its actually used in modern life.


Monma Tansuten Co., Ltd.
143 Minamikajimachi Wakabayashi-ku Sendai-shi , Miyagi
URL http://sendai-monmaya.com/en/