yuukou yamaguchi translates traditional japanese tansu chests into contemporary trolley cases




‘tansu’ are japanese chests from the edo period that are typically characterized by a unique technique of joining timbers such as elm, japanese cedar and paulownia, without the use of any hardware; which are then completed by an urushi finish (a form of japanese lacquer). what makes ‘tansu’ different from other wooden chests, is that they are adorned with ornate iron embellishments that are made using the ancient art of echizen uchi-hamono — a casting technique that has been passed down for 700 years, in which heated steel is repeatedly beaten to forge a knife or object; resulting in a rust resistant, strong and long lasting product. another defining feature of ‘tansu’ is the use of the ‘inome’, which literally means ‘wild boar’s eye’ in japanese and resembles a heart, within this metalwork.

yuukou yamaguchi tansu trolley case designboom
‘tansu’ are japanese chests from the edo period, typically characterized by a unique technique of joining timbers




in the past, ‘tansu’ were used for a variety of purposes such as a cashier’s chest, movable drawers, or as a safe, often employing complex mechanisms or ‘tricks’ to present unauthorized access. yuukou yamaguchi of furnitureholic draws on the history and the skilled craftsmanship that goes into the art of ‘tansu’ making, and puts a contemporary spin on this age-old practice by creating a series of two bespoke ‘tansu trolley case’ designs.

yuukou yamaguchi tansu trolley case designboom§
the traditional chests are embellished with metalwork details




the first is the bespoke ‘tansu carry-on trolley case’ — a unique suitcase that has been adorned with black metalwork. complying with major japanese airline cabin baggage regulations, and weighing in at just 10kg, it makes for a stylish companion for any discerning traveller. from its outside, the trolley appears to be just a four drawer affair, however, concealed behind a three drawer façade is a capsule large enough to fit not only A4 sized office essentials, as well as a personal computer. on top of that, when the bottom drawer is open or closed, the tansu releases a melodic tone as if it were coming to life to alert you in the case that someone is trying to look inside.

back detail of the ‘tansu carry-on trolley’




the strength and style of the bespoke tansu trolley case is not like your run of the mill cabin baggage. while it does respect carry-on luggage guidelines, it might be slightly impractical to bring onto an airplane. tested on public footpaths, as well as on trains, the designpassed with flying colors, however a more suitable purpose for the mobile unit might be as portable storage, such as containing cutlery or utensils and functioning as a ‘picnic basket’… it is really up to your imagination. yamaguchi has actually been approached by professional geisha to construct tansu for them to be used as part of, and to enhance their performance — something that they can use to store their props, include as part of their act, and pack everything into to take home again, all the while keeping with traditional japanese aesthetics.  

detail of the sliding handle

the carry-on suitcase weights only 10kg

the bespoke ‘tansu trolley case’ is embellished with pink metalwork details




the second is the bespoke ‘tansu trolley case’, embellished with pink metalwork details. yamaguchi designed it for a fashion show, constructing it from paulownia wood. the metal fittings were rescued from an older chest so they feature the typical ‘inome’ motif, and finished with a brilliant pink pearlescent paint. 

the metal fittings were rescued from an older chest and features the ‘inome’ motif




with the creation of the tansu trolley cases, yamaguchi has not only created two beautiful pieces of art from the exterior, but offers a whole other dimension within which is what brings the designs to life.

the portable unit was conceived for a fashion show