As a carpenter I am fascinated by the variety of shapes of the different Tansu, which are very similar in their dimensions. The division of the front surfaces by means of drawers, doors, sliding doors or simply shelves, which often seem to be set rather arbitrarily, nevertheless follow their own regularity and aesthetics.
The Tansu are built very light, which is due to the fact that in case of fire or catastrophes these chests and their contents could be brought to safety more easily. For this reason there are also large handles on the sides, through which a carrying bar could be placed.
Fittings are hand-forged, and after the Meiji restitution opened the swordsmiths a new business area, the splendour of some fittings is owed to the representative efforts. Around 1865, the family coat of arms was begun to be incorporated into the fittings.
Generally, there are few pieces of furniture in Japan that are limited to low tables, tansu, kimono stands, tansu for swords (katana tansu), choba tansu, stair tansu (kaidan tansu) or kitchen tansu (mizuja tansu), tansu on castors, tea tansu (cha tansu) or screens.
Material: Mostly the body was made of Paulownie (blue bell tree; Kiri), a fast growing and light wood, but also cedar or fir.
The fronts of the Kimono Tansu were often made of Kiri.
The richly decorated Tansu were mostly elm or ash which stands out because of the beautiful grain.
Surface: Kiri Tansu were mostly raw left wood, now and then brushed and stained with ash grey.
In the case of the elaborately manufactured Tansu, the surface was often refined with Urushi.