Brass alloy was widely used in Japan for a variety of purposes. Alongside more common purposes, it was also used in the form of brass dust as an element for decorating lacquerwares and ukiyo-e woodblock prints; brass hairpins were commonly worn by commoners in the Ryûkyû Kingdom (in contrast to the gold and silver hairpins worn by the Ryukyuan aristocracy).

The Tokugawa shogunate created a short-lived za guild in 1780 which would exercise a monopoly on the sale and distribution of brass. An iron guild was created at the same time. The brass guild (shinchûza) was attached to the headquarters of the ginza (silver guild) in Edo, and had offices in Osaka where all the brass produced in the archipelago would be collected, and then resold. New brass refineries were established in Osaka, Fushimi, and Sakai, where they had previously only existed in Kyoto. Like the iron guild, the brass guild was abolished in 1787, however, as Matsudaira Sadanobu took steps to reverse the commercially-minded policies of his predecessor, Tanuma Okitsugu.[1]


  1. John Whitney Hall, Tanuma Okitsugu (1719-1788): Forerunner of Modern Japan, Harvard University Press (1955), 77.