Chonin (Townspeople) (町人)

Chonin (or machinin) is a term referring to craftsmen and merchants who lived in the urban area during the Edo period. With the class system (warrior, farmer, craftsman and merchant classes) established in the early Edo period, Chonin was ranked the two lowest classes in the category. This encouraged categorical separation of these occupations away from farming and led them greater specialization.
In the social status, they ranked at lower position but showed superiority over the samurai class at times with their outstanding craftsmanship and abundant financial resources, which contributed to the development of distinctive urban cultures (Chonin culture [townsmen culture].)

It must be noted that the term was not used for all the people classified in artisans and merchants classes but referred to the owners and the masters who made up the bourgeoisie and possessed their own estates. They participated in local politics and public events, also held social status, as well as public rights and obligations, which entitled them voting right and eligibility for machi-doshiyori (ward head) selection.

One social function of Chonin was to rent nagaya (a row house) to tanako (tenant) for a small tanachin (rent.)
They hired oya (landlord) who was committed administration of nagaya including management service such as collecting rent and mediating in problems, in consideration of the task, oya received benefits such as exemption of rent and so on.

As a side note to this, Hachiko and Kumako, famous characters that appear in rakugo tales, are nagaya tenants, not townspeople in the strict sense.

[Original Japanese]