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Tansu: Japanese Chest
Straddling a line between furniture and folk art, tansu is the term given to the antique cabinetry of Japan made principally between 1860 and 1910, the bulk of the Meiji period. Developed from the Japanese need for storage that would not clutter their small living spaces, most tansu are portable chests made to be kept in storage lofts or kuras (fireproof storehouses). A dramatic combination of utility and beauty, each piece carries a unique history. Its careful construction conveys the region of origin, intended use, its owner's status, wealth, and often profession. From samurai sword chests to merchants' sea chests, from inventory chests to kimono chests, from mizuya (kitchen tansu) to cha-do (tea tansu), tansu dominated Japanese furniture design until western influences swept Japan at the beginning of the 20th Century.