What is Tansu?

Tansu(箪笥) refers to Japanese chests or cabinetry. First created during the Edo period (1688–1704), the wood most commonly used are keyaki (elm), sugi (cedar), kuri (chestnut), ezo matsu (pine), kiri (paulownia) and hinoki (cypress). 

Many collectors like ours focus on finding genuine antique tansu. There are few shops producing imitation antique tansu so it’s important to purchase from legitimate antique dealers.


What are the most popular types of tansu?

Kaidan Tansu

Also known as a step tansu or step chest, the kaidan tansu is designed in the shape of stairs and provides a variety of drawers and cabinets in different sizes.

Choba Tansu

The choba tansu or merchant chest was originally used by store owners to keep business records, books, stationery, an abacus, calligraphy brushes and paper. Often displayed in a prominent location of the store due to its beauty and charm, it signified a sense of permanence to the customers as well as providing functionality and purpose for the business.

Isho Tansu

There are several types of isho tansu or clothing chests of drawers but all have primarily served as dressers. Some of these types of tansu served as a cabinet for storing clothing out of season. Contemporary uses for this type of chest include splitting each section for use as nightstands on both sides of the bed, or using it as an elegant linen cabinet in a living room or dining room setting.

Mizuya Tansu

The Japanese kitchen chest or mizuya tansu was originally used in a Japanese kitchen to store water, dry foods, dishes and cookware. Its contemporary use would include using it as a China cabinet for the storage of fine porcelain, china or linens.

Katane Tansu

Sword chests or katane tansu were designed for the storage of several long sword blades. They were used primarily by blade polishers with lightweight wood to make it easier to move around to different samurai customers in Japan. The choice to use kiri wood typically also helped protect blades from oxidization in the humid summer months.

Cha Tansu

Known as a tea chest, the cha tansu was originally used as a storage cabinet for keeping tea cups, tea pots and utensils for casual daily use. Typically placed in the guest receiving room of a house, it was often prominently displayed for its beauty and use. As a contemporary chest, it works well in any room to add charm and elegance as well as storage functionality.

Kannon Biraki Tansu

Commonly referred to as a wedding chest, the kannon biraki tansu was made for the bride as part of her dowry. After the wedding, she would store her wedding kimono and accessories in this chest to be cherished for generations to come.

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