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JAPANESE TANSU CHESTS

Click on these links to find some of the items we currently have in stock, and inquire if you do not see just what you are looking for.  We have hundreds of tansu of all shapes and sizes.  See below for brief descriptions of some different types of traditional Japanese tansu.
Chadansu (tea chests)
Chobadansu (accounting and document chests)
Funadansu (captain or ship's chests)
Hako (calligraphy, sewing and book boxes, peddler's chests)
Ishodansu (clothing chests)
Kaidandansu (stair step chest)
Kodansu & Bodansu
(small personal and locking bar chests)
Kyodai (cosmetic or vanities with mirror)
Mizuya (kitchen and shop chests)
Other Tansu (apothecary chests, writing desks, futon chests, sword chests, etc.)

Made up of a combination of drawers and sliding doors, tansu were designed to accommodate a variety of different uses.  For example, and ishodansu stored clothing, a chobadansu stored documents while a chadansu stored implements for tea ceremony and a kaidansu was used as stairsteps to an upper level and storage.  While the size and positioning of the doors and drawers vary among these different tansu, they hold in common clean lines and asymmetry.  With a focus on utility, many of these chests are stackable and most have metal side handles so they can be easily moved.  We have a large inventory of all sizes and types of tansu chests, so please contact us with your preferences and we will help you find one that fits your needs.

Here are examples of different types of tansu chests.  The pieces pictured may not be available, please see the category pages for items currently in stock.

This small box is not technically a tansu since it is so small, falling in to the category of bako, or small box.  It is called a suzuribako and was used as a calligraphy or accounting box, used by accountants to store brushes and ink, stamps and receipts.  They are highly collectable and work great as accent pieces or desk organizers.

  

    

Ishodansu are for clothing storage, and often have a locking safe in one lower corner, occasionally with a hidden compartment in the rear of the inner drawer.  The drawers are nice and deep, and the iron work can be quite ornate.  The colors range from light natural unfinished kiri wood to a deep red tannin stain.  

Kannonbiraki - These two piece chests have drawers behind the characteristic hinged upper doors and heavy iron work.  They make stunning display pieces as well as being functional. 

Stacking chobadansu were originally used to hold account books in shops.  They have a variety of drawer combinations with locking compartments and iron or copper handles.  They can be used as originally intended in an office, to hold any other small items or as an interesting display piece.  They are practical and beautiful! 

 

 

    

Sea chests, or funadansu, were used to carry ship's logs and account books, as well as personal items.  They usually have a top handle for easy carrying and side handles to use it they are packed with heavy items.  We have custom forged iron bases made here in Portland for many of our sea chests to raise them up to side table height, making them more usable in our western style homes.  They often have stunning hardware with locks and inner drawers or shelves.  

This is a Sendai style ishodansu, with the characteristic heavy iron work.  These chests were made in the Sendai region of Japan and are prized by collectors and designers.

Kaidandansu, or step tansu, were used as stairways up to a second story, with multiple storage areas underneath.  They divide into two or three parts, and are only finished on one side.  Reproductions are sometimes designed to be viewed and used from either side but ours are genuine antiques so are meant to be set directly against a wall.  We have them going up and to the right like the one pictured and up and to the left.  They make interesting display and storage areas, an instant conversation piece.

Mizuya are two piece stacking chests originally used in a kitchen area to store food and utensils.  They have various arrangements of sliding doors and drawers and are typically made of sugi, hinoki and zelkova wood with hand forged iron handles.  They can be used stacked as seen here, side by side to form a sideboard, or the top piece can be mounted up on a wall with a countertop placed on the bottom piece to make impressive and unique kitchen cabinetry.

Here is a single piece chobadansu, designed with a variety of drawers and sliding doors.  These pieces were designed to hold account books and receipts, and can be used for a variety of storage uses, as well as being beautifully crafted with hand forged iron drawer pulls and metalwork.  

Katanadansu are low wide chests that were used to store sword blades without the hilt.  They can be put on bases or set under a window as a side table and storage chest. 

Dogubaku are small multi-drawer boxes traditionally used by craftsmen of all types to hold small tools and hardware.  They are great desktop organizers, as many hold standard 81/2 by 11 paper, or with a base as an interesting side table. 

Haribako are small boxes originally used to store sewing supplies.  With multiple drawers they work exceptionally well as jewelry boxes or to hold small things such as stamps or office supplies.  The compartment at the top of the piece of wood on the box to the left has a hinged lid, opening up to reveal a small place to hold pins or other such small item.

 

 

Chadansu were used to hold items used in the preparation of tea, and to display prizes tea cups and bowls.  Like most tansu they are designed with asymmetrical shelves and drawers, and these often have cutouts in the shape of flowers or leaves on the side panels as decorative motifs that double as carrying handles.

Futondansu were used to store bedding during the day and are deeper than other types of tansu.  They can be used as entertainment centers, and we can modify the interior to accommodate rack systems and televisions.  The lower drawers can be used to store CD's and videos, and smaller units will fit inside the large upper portion, which has no interior shelves.  They break down into multiple pieces for easy transportation.

Page Updated 12/17/2013