New Tokonoma

Just finished building a new Tokonoma in my bonsai garden. A place for relaxing and enjoying the beauty of bonsai. The Tokonoma (床の間, toko-no-ma), or just toko (床), is a special niche used to set up items to appreciate. Seen in Japanese reception rooms, at temples, and at bonsai gardens. In a private house, the Tokonoma may be used for decorations when celebrating New Year and other occassions, as well as a welcome gesture to visitors.

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In the world of bonsai the size often is the size of a tatami mat. 90 X 180 cm, but this varies depending on design. My Tokonoma is build as a center point in the bonsai garden, and can be watched from inside the house as well.

I will use it on a daily basis, but especially for visitors, who can enjoy the beauty of bonsai when visiting our garden. Using the Tokonoma also sharpens my senses of appreciating the beauty of bonsai art.

The landscape painting references

The way bonsai are displayed in a Tokonoma / alcove, is also closely related to the landscape paintings. Therefore the expression and the mood of a bonsai display is always is some extend related to the landscape painting, and time of year. Even the time of the day may be considered. An evening mood with a low sun at a scroll painting can suggest this, or the moon in the night gives the feeling of the cool night e.g.

Having the landscape painting in mind when setting up a bonsai display makes it easier to arrange, read and understand. Referring to the landscape painting, is not only the way trees, grasses, flowers, mountains i.e. can be used as elements through the use of bonsai, accent plantings, Suiseki (viewing stones), scroll painting or accessories, but also the empty space is an important feature. The empty space is that extra element of the untold that is both present in the painting and the bonsai display. The empty space expands the untold part of the story and the imagination fills in the rest and adds the important peacefulness to the picture.

This can all be done in a very modest and simple way, like it can be done with a fuller image with more elements, but always with the lightness and simplicity of the open spaces and landscape paintings elements in mind.

Now this area with bonsai Tokonoma may be were it will be easy to find me in future.

4 thoughts on “New Tokonoma

  1. I have not seen a tokonoma outside in a garden unless the shoji of the house were opened to expose– but I’ve not studied gardening beyond living in a country home with a massive garden complete with tea house and temple. Is it common to have an exterior facing nock such as this?

    1. It is not normal to have a Tokonoma building in the garden. We have other side buildings but not as in Japan. The Tokonoma in the garden is special, but I wanted to be able to fully enjoy bonsai and do not have space indoors for it. I also feel it give the garden something extraordinary. I have seen a picture of one outdoor Tokonoma from Italy and in Germany a bonsai nursery have something similar. So it is a special thing.

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