the sendai tansu

Friday, November 1, 2013

This is a story about learning to be a parent. It is also a story about furniture. Last week a friend introduced me to a local antiques dealer who happened to have a very large shop of beautiful pieces. He had several Meiji era tansu chests.  In trying to pick a piece, I have learned so much about tansu chests. Since we are in Northern Japan, we are near Sendai. Sendai  is a famous style of tansu. They're known for their heavy and intricate ironwork. source

I picked out a merchant's chest in this style. You can buy your own here if you're in the States. source

It was gorgeous, with original working locks, key and intricate metalwork. I'm told the blossoms are plum blossoms but in my mind they look a bit like lotus blooms. I had my husband and a friend transport it home; they were good sports because these things are not light. source

As I was cleaning it that night I noticed the antique ironwork had many sharp points, especially on the drawer-front corner pieces. I decided it had to go; it wasn't baby safe at all. So, so beautiful, but not baby-friendly. I went back with another Japanese friend and we picked out a possible replacement. I'll post pictures when it is in place. And in case you are interested, this is what a Sendai Tansu looks like in place in a traditional style home. Sorry I couldn't find a bigger image online. source

Lesson learned - this was my first furniture purchase since my daughter was born. I think the dealer thought I was a bit nuts when I went to pat down every single piece of furniture in his inventory... When I went back the dealer also asked, "what style does your husband like?" I told him the lightest since we have to walk up stairs to our apartment. Looking at another chest he told me, "No, your husband will not like this one. It is too heavy." source

More on how Sendai Tansu Chests are made:

columnist said...

I have a Korean tansu which has very little adornment. Sadly it's not with us here in Bangkok, but stored in Scotland. Hope you have success with your second choice!
Thanks for stopping by on my blog.

Parnassus said...

Hello Ann, Those tansu chests are indeed magnificent. I cannot have such a large piece, but I do have some smaller Japanese boxes that are similar. There are many Japanese chests, beautifully constructed and proportioned, that do not have that sort of elaborate hardware.

I understand about baby-proofing your apartment. Recently, I have been putting away many objects, because friends have been coming over with a one-year-old.

Ann said...

Thanks for the nice comments! Sorry I'm behind.

Columnist, thanks for visiting! Tansus are very handy, I would like to acquire another for some extra storage, but maybe from another region.

Jim, I recently took my daughter to a Japanese friend's house where all the rooms were tatmi. It was amazing, naturally babyproofed! Is your smaller box a sea captain's chest? Those are quite common in this region although I understand normally harder to come by elsewhere.

Shibui said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shibui said...

Thank you for bringing more attention to Tansu. I love them. If you know anyone who is looking for Tansu in the NY area I have over 150 in my warehouse. I also have more information about tansu on our blog.

Thanks again