This weekend Ruben and I were helping some friends move furniture. It seemed like such a simple task – moving a bedroom set from one room to the next. We move Japanese furniture all the time, so we volunteered happily, thinking the job would be quick and effortless. After all, the two of us often lift and carry large kitchen, clothing or merchant tansu from room to room in our warehouse and assist in the offloading of our containers when they arrive from Japan, loaded with beauties for our customers. How bad could it be?
Well, it turns out, VERY bad. Western furniture is HEAVY! Among the four of us, the result was a total of one strained shoulder, a twisted knee, a woeful depletion of energy and sore backs overall. Two hours later, still in a sweat while sipping iced tea, I told our friends, “You must get some antique Japanese furniture!”
Besides its obvious beauty, there is nothing like a Japanese tansu for mobility and ease of use. First, all large antique tansu, including kaidan-dansu or step tansu, are modular. They come in separate pieces, two, three, sometimes even four easily manageable sections. This was originally established in case of fire. Early Japanese homes were often fire-prone, so the owners needed to be able get their belongings out quickly and easily. Second, antique Japanese tansu almost always have a percentage of paulownia (aka, kiri), a finely grained, warp-resistant and lightweight wood. Some chests are even 100% kiri. Others might have cedar, cypress, persimmon or keyaki (aka, zelcova) accents. All, are relatively light in comparison to most other furniture, another reason there is nothing quite so wonderful as antique Japanese tansu in the modern home!