Tokonoma
displays

Bonsai displayed in Tokonomas

A Tokonoma is a dedicated space in a Japanese style reception room, in which items are on display for artistic appreciation. Often this includes a Bonsai tree, a Suiseki (viewing stone), a scroll and an accent plant.

Styles of Bonsai tokonoma

Shin, Gyo and So are the three traditional styles of Tokonoma originating in Chinese calligraphy. The Shin style is very strict and formal, whereas the So style is free. The Gyo style lies between these two. The amount of formality can be seen by looking at the Tokobashira (supporting pillar); the more refined the wood, the more formal the Tokonoma display.

The "So" style Tokonoma

The So styled room is often used as a tea room. Variety is central in the design, using several kinds of wood for the pillars and beams. Bonsai trees that fit this design best include the Bunjingi style (Literati), accompanied with an accent plant or a viewing stone (Suiseki).

So tokonoma
The 'So' Tokonoma in the Omiya Bonsai Art museum in Saitama, Japan.
Bonsai tokonoma
Closeup of the Tokonoma.

The "Gyo" style Tokonoma

Most reception rooms in modern times are created in the Gyo style. Bonsai trees with "s" shaped trunks (in Japanese: "Moyogi") or flowering Bonsai (in Japanese: "Hanamono") fit this style Tokonoma best.

Gyo tokonoa
The 'Gyo' Tokonoma in the Omiya Bonsai Art museum in Saitama, Japan.
Tokonoma
Closeup of the Tokonoma.

The "Shin" style Tokonoma

The Shin style is the most formal and prestigious of the three styles. The arrangements are or prescribed and formalized; the tokonoma needs a tatami mat with a koraiberi (decorated binding of the mat), where persons of high-class are seated. Various items are on display, including a Suiseki (viewing stone), incense tools and a bonsai; the Bonsai should be an elegant piece that fits the grandeur of the surroundings.

Shin tokonoma
The 'So' Tokonoma in the Omiya Bonsai Art museum in Saitama, Japan.
Tokonoma Japanese
Closeup of the Tokonoma, with an elegant Bonsai on display.

A few examples of Tokonoma displays and Bonsai

Taikan Bonsai museum
Taikan Bonsai museum tokonoma, Obuse, Japan.
Shunkaen tokonoma
A look into the Tokonoma at Shunkaen Bonsai nursery, Tokyo, Japan.
Shunkaen
Tokonoma at Shunkaen Bonsai nursery, Tokyo, Japan.

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