Q: What is a Tansu?

A: A Tansu is a traditional Japanese wooden chest. Made up of a combination of drawers and sliding doors, tansu were designed to accommodate a variety of different uses.

When thinking about identifying antique Japanese furniture, it is helpful to imagine sitting on a two and a half-inch thick rice mat known as a tatami. From this low-seated position most daily activities occur – eating, writing and grooming. As a result, tables are low (12-13 inches) and chests, know as tansu, sit directly on the floor.

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 kimono, a chobadansu stored documents while a chadansu stored implements for tea ceremony and a kodansu was used as a writing desk and secretary. 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.

Q: How do you know how old something is?

A: The type of wood or material, condition, style and workmanship of the piece, marks and dates stamped or written on the piece, type of metalwork and method of production, books and online reference, many many years of experience. Some pieces are more difficult to judge than others, but for those things that we focus on, we typically can get pretty close.

Q: I want to put a TV in my new armoire. Can you customize it for me before I get it?

A: Absolutely. We can add or remove shelves, remove the back to allow room for your TV’s tubes, and cut holes for the wires. We just need measurements and direction. Significant alterations may have an additional charge.

Q: Do you deliver?

A: Yes, we deliver for free to the Portland, Oregon area. Outside Portland (but within driving distance – from Seattle to Eugene, say) is negotiable. We ship items large and small via shipping companies, UPS, the US Postal Service. Packing shipping charges vary greatly depending on the item and destination. Contact us for more information.
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Glossary of Terms