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Tansu Styles

Japanese Tansu Furniture

The karuma tansu, or wheeled tansu, became a popular household storage unit, at the time of fire, they could be rolled to safety. These wheeled trunks caused a true threat because they didn't have brakes and were eventually outlawed for killing people as they rolled downhill, through crowded streets, with a deafening rumble. Theirs such history in Japanese furniture!

The golden age of Japan furniture nurtured the great variety of styles coming from small shops of the craftsmen. A unique tansu furniture style emerged called kaidan tansu. The Japanese word for stair is kaidan. Thus, the kaidan tansu is a stair trunk, or group of stacked trunks which also forms a stairway. This cabinet hybrid originated in central Honshu. Found in traditional rustic Japanese country estates, and the Imperial palace from the Edo era into the Meiji Period.

The kaidan tansu is a powerful visual element in the Japanese home, which otherwise is very sparsely furnished with small pieces, (i.e.. arm rest, small tables or a kimono stand). The kaidan tansu of Japan are very large Japanese furniture pieces, often 6 feet wide and over 9 feet high, yet as grand as they are, they still remain aesthetically and spatially stimulating due to a unique visual sense of movement that stems from descending size of boxes stacked to form a stairway. Kaidan are strong and grounded. They represent a style of furniture/architecture which is economical, simple and functional. The stairway was often steep dark and polished wood as seen to the right. Imagine, climbing upstairs with a long kimono on would require excellent balance and grace!

Like most Japanese furniture, part if the beauty of tansu furniture is the functionality of the design which allows adaptations to each unique space to be elegant. No two tansu are exactly alike in function, balance, alignment, spirit and form. We know that most of Japan's trade was done by sea, and because shipping was a lucrative venture, many, many sea tansu were created, each unique and individual. The individuality is in direct relation to the desired function, town it was made in the wood chosen and the individual craftsman who designed and created the trunk.

There were three main types of sea chests that emerged from three separate sea towns, yet even within these styles no two were the same. While we were on the southern island we saw the dark sober tansu which are characteristic of Kyushu, with little or no decoration and iron work. Japanese woodworking is labor intensive, but the result, whether a structure or a piece of fine Asian furniture, is of the highest quality, strength, and endurance. Few are trained in the fine art of Japanese furniture joinery. It takes years as an apprentice to begin to make your own joints. Lucky for you, at Tansu.Net these amazing furniture pieces can be yours at a click of a button!

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