Tokonoma (alcove in a traditional Japanese room where art or flowers are displayed) (床の間)

A tokonoma is a kind of Zashikikazari (a set of decorative features), seen in a tatami room of a Japanese house. Tokonoma is installed at a corner in a guest room, i.e., a space of Hare (noticeably cheerful and formal situations or such places) and Ke (informal and daily situations), and it is composed of tokobashira (the pillar closest to the corner of the tea ceremony room and the second of two pillars dictate the width of the alcove), tokogamachi (an ornamental wooden bar in the front part of tokonoma), and so on. It is the spot to decorate kakejiku (hanging scroll) or ikebana (flower arrangement).

The origin of tokonoma is oshiita (a zashiki kazari of a thick wooden board settled at the bottom of the wall in the Medieval Period) in the Medieval period, and the tokonoma had been accomplished in the Shoin-zukuri Sukiya (a house built in the style of a tea-ceremony hut), and in Shoin-zukuri in the style of sukiya (traditional style of Japanese residential architecture building in the style of a tea-ceremony house), in the early modern period, in a quintessential way. In the Shoin-zukuri style, the tokonoma represented the social status of the person seated at Kamiza (seat of honour), but afterwards, in the Japanese-style house, it has represented the consideration and attention of the resident, who decorates the tokonoma with seasonable kakejiku or flowers.
(There is no need to install tokonoma in a living room that is usually used by the family members.)

In a room having a tokonoma, the side close to tokonoma is regarded as Kamiza, and it is regarded as the center of the room.
(In the sense that the tokonoma gives direction to the indoor space, the tokonoma can be said to be equivalent to the mantelpiece of a Western-style room.)

During the Edo period, having a tokonoma was restricted because tokonoma was regarded as too luxurious for ordinary people, but after the Meiji period, installing tokonoma in a guest room became common. Nowadays, the custom to decorate kakejiku has faded, and even in a tatami room, tokonoma is often excluded. Today, even in a room where there is already tokonoma, it is often remodeled into a closet. In Japanese-style inns, it is often seen that tokonoma falls to the level of a space to set a TV or a safety box (i.e., cashbox).

Composition of toko (alcove)

-Tokobashira is the most appealing material in tokonoma. In Shoin-zukuri style, tokobashira is basically kakubashira (a corner post or pillar that is square or rectangular), but at a private residence, for example, because of the influence of Sukiya-zukuri style, an uncommon precious wood, such as a log with knots, is often used.

Otoshikake (a bar placed across the upper part of the tokonoma)
- It is a cross piece located at the upper part of the tokonoma, and it holds the wall between the kamoi (door header) and the ceiling.

Tokogamachi (kamachi: an ornamental wooden bar in the front part of tokonoma)
- a lacquered cross piece (tokogamachi) and a tatami mat on the raised place above the tatami floor.

- In general the tokonoma wall is finished by a plasterer.

In buildings during the early modern period, such as the Reception Hall of Kojoin of Onjo-ji Temple, Ninomaru Shoin of Nijo-jo Castle, Shoin of Hongan-ji Temple, tokogamachi is not used, but a solid timber (oshi-ita or a shallow decorative alcove) is placed. In addition, in these buildings, pictures on partitions are painted on the plastered walls.

Hon-tokonoma (a full tokonoma)

In tokonoma, toko is not only placed alone, but also frequently accompanied by tsukeshoin (a built-in table) at the corridor (daylighting) side, and by wakidana (shelves next to tokonoma) at the opposite side, in accordance with the tradition of Shoin-zukuri style. This is called hon-tokonoma.

Tsukeshoin (a built-in table); this is also simply called 'shoin.'
Depth is created by the style of bay window, and shoin ranma (transom) and shoji (a paper sliding door) are placed in the back.

Tokowaki: a space created at the opposite side of tsukeshoin across toko. Tokowakidana (decorative shelve arranged in the recess next to the decorative alcove) and fukurotodana (a small cupboard on the wall of a tokonoma) (shelve with fusuma, a sliding door) are placed. The representative tokowakidana is 'chigai-dana' (shelves built into the wall), which is made by combining double-stage shelves, but depending on the owner's taste, other styles including 'tsuridana' (a three small shelves hung from a large shelf) are also employed.

[Original Japanese]