The alcove, or tokonoma, is an essential feature of Japanese home design, and this room includes a beautiful example despite the narrow dimensions of the space. Here the family would hang a decorative scroll and place a seasonal flower arrangement, as you see today. Other art objects might also be displayed – a fine vase, perhaps, or a small sculpture. The tokonoma is like a tiny museum, adding its welcome to the family’s hospitality for customers and guests.
Did you notice a small windowlike opening in each side of the tokonoma near the floor? Architects call that an ostium, a Latin word for mouth. In Japanese it’s a horaguchi, or chinkuguri, bringing light to objects on the alcove floor.
The sturdy posts framing the alcove are the main feature of the room. The post on the left is a very hard black persimmon wood called kurogaki. The other is kaede, or maple. Feel their silky surface and you will know that they are the finest wood in the building.