This January 1999 article by Kristine Carber and Chadine Flood Gong (which includes a guide on tansu shopping) is from Sunset magazine. Read the entire article on findarticles.com.
We see them in bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens, and baths - Japanese storage chests and cabinets called tansus. Once found mostly in the homes of connoisseurs of Asian art, the wood chests are rapidly finding a broader market. "Tansus adapt well to the Western home because they blend effectively with contemporary and traditional designs," says Seattle designer Kristine Donovick.
San Jose design partners Patricia McDonald and Marcia Moore agree. "We've been using them for years, but now more clients are asking for them because they are so beautiful and versatile," says Moore.
Most tansus are square or rectangular, but some, originally used as freestanding staircases, have interesting stepped shapes. They began appearing in Japan in the latter half of the 17th century and were used in houses, for storing clothes and cooking equipment, and on merchant ships, to store documents for safekeeping. By the 1800s, they had become familiar furnishings in Japanese homes. Highly lacquered pieces graced the houses of the nobility; simple wood chests were found in country homes.