It’s Lightweight! (an essential, though frequently overlooked, quality in antique Japanese tansu)

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?

Mizuya Kitchen Tansu

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!


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New Japanese Furniture Shipment at Jcollector/Jtansu

Our latest shipment of fine Japanese tansu has arrived!

Ruben spent a week in May selecting a wide variety of exceptional pieces, including kitchen tansu, merchant tansu and the ever-popular getabako shoe tansu (a best seller!).  Check out this great two-tone mizuya with keyaki wood accents and roomy getabako, an eye-catching must for getting that pile of shoes off the floor and tucked away.

Mizuya is a term used for a storage cupboard traditionally found in the Japanese kitchen.  Its more literal definition is “water-area cabinet.”  This type of tansu comes in a range of sizes, configurations and sophistication.  Some of our customers prefer a simpler, more rustic style crafted using elements like wire mesh and bamboo accents.  Others favor a more elegant design fashioned with highly desirable and richly grained keyaki or zelkova wood and iron-studded paneling.

For an overview of different types of kitchen tansu, click here.

Our favorite reference books on Japanese tansu include Kazuko Koisumi’s Traditional Japanese Furniture and Rosy Clarke’s Japanese Antique Furniture.

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