On building a tokonoma

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On building a tokonoma

Post  dick benbow on Thu Jan 01, 2015 12:17 am

I'm in the process of downsizing my home of 37 years and building a better display alcove in the new place. It's been a challenge to get good instruction on how to proceed.
For months I've been haunting used book stores and finding some books on the subject. Mostly in Japanese with english subtitles. The books are olde and translations maybe not the best.
During a fall festival (aki matsuri) at a local community college for things Japanese, I ran across an americn woodworker who studied in Japan and was willing to give me a bid on materials from Japan but assembled here in the U.S.. Definetely not in my retirerment budget!
I did find a local cabinet maker, who's wife and he over the years hosted several Japanese students here in the states and seemed interested in the project. So Now, I wait for an estiment following a visit to the new residence next week.
I'm happy to share the experience here, hopefully with photos as we progress into the new year. I really do need to give "a shout out" To Jonathan Maples for his help. We spent close to an Hour on the phone today dispite his cold and sore throat. What a wealth of knowledge! Also help from the Publisher of International Bonsai Magazine as well as the former curator for the Weyerhaeuser Bonsai Exhibit known now as the Pacific
bonsai Museum.
It's gonna be awhile before I have anything to share so be patient with me. I do think it'll be a fun project to share in the new year....and I'm excited to get the project started. Smile

dick benbow
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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  John Quinn on Thu Jan 01, 2015 4:27 am

I look forward to following your progress with this project. I read an interesting passage on the tokonoma several years ago.
"The tokonoma is not regarded as part of the interior space; rather, like a sacred mihrab, as a place where communion occurs between the people on the inside and the grand forces of nature on the outside. Here, even a single flower serves as a symbol of universal truth, providing the medium through which humans can become one with nature..."

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/worldkigolibrary/conversations/messages/200

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  Precarious on Thu Jan 01, 2015 2:21 pm

Dick, I wish you well on your journey.

John, a talisman then?  "...anything whose presence exercises a remarkable or powerful influence on human feelings or actions."

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  JimLewis on Thu Jan 01, 2015 3:23 pm

Maybe helpful??

https://books.google.com/books?id=njnRAgAAQBAJ&pg=PT323&lpg=PT323&dq=building+a+tokonoma&source=bl&ots=jlY6a7eQCd&sig=M0IVU1E1EYFmUmu0SpUiuTly59g&hl=en&sa=X&ei=B2alVMDsMsq-ggTyvYLgAQ&ved=0CB0Q6AEwADge#v=onepage&q=building%20a%20tokonoma&f=false

http://www.houzz.com/Tokonoma

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  dick benbow on Thu Jan 01, 2015 5:24 pm

Jim, just finished reading your first url...thank-you for that. I see that you have something else for us to look into and will do that next...Smile

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  dick benbow on Thu Jan 01, 2015 5:39 pm

nice find, thanks again. In my readings of the material you've shared, it obvious to me that putting my tokonoma into my manufactured home will cause me to break with many traditional methods. So in sharing I'm sure I'll
have them pointed out as I share. But over the decades as I've studied things japanese that catch my interest,
ultimately I need to do the best with what I have able to provide, to enrich my own life. And in that way, share
with the basics of bringing the outside world in.

( again, thanks Jim )

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  dick benbow on Mon Jan 05, 2015 7:34 pm

Had my second meeting with the cabinet maker on site. We dealt with ways to secure the top valance. Also the
support for the top from the side to respect the source of light. next meeting is end of the month to confirm
colors. I plan to do the floor in a medium brown stain. The base will be red laquoer with qtr inch round along the outside edges in black. If I want i can lay felt colored (maybe blue for ocean or water scene) along the top of the stained floor. Light source is to the left and that side will be looking like a sohji screen wooden lattice without the paper. the critical post for support and for designation of formality is in question because of availability of what's called for and hideing the electrical cord. So may have to compromise. nest time i hope to have some drawingings to post. Smile

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  dick benbow on Sat Jan 17, 2015 6:07 pm

I tried copying so I could post the drawings, but I couldn't get the computer to co-operate. Basically the design
followed these concepts.
Base platform
Removable riser
Shoji screen (left side support )
2x2 suppot post (right, front corner support)
Light valance above

The picture is of Bill V's toko which I really liked. Storage underneath, viewed by standing up and not seated on the floor. But many of my scrolls were 6-7 feet in length and his wonderful design had a 4 foot viewing area. So I went back to having the floor raised some 6-8 inches at the base to allow for close to 7 foot viewing height...
The removable riser was a biwa concept to use with certain figurines removed from basic floor so as to be less ditracting. It was movable in case I needed to place left or right of the bonsai. Light source with shoji screen window will be on the left.


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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  Andre Beaurain on Wed Jan 21, 2015 9:58 am

O this is terribly exciting bounce

Thanks for that info Jim.

I want to construct one outside, but with African influences.... yes I know affraid

Love and Light

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  kevin stoeveken on Wed Jan 21, 2015 7:03 pm

Andre Beaurain wrote:I want to construct one outside, but with African influences....  yes I know affraid

wrong icon andre...

rather than this affraid

it should be this Very Happy

and this cheers

and maybe one of these ThumbsUp

of course yours should have african influences !!!

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  Andre Beaurain on Sun Jan 25, 2015 9:35 am

emmm Dick we are still waiting in anticipation.

How did your meeting go, what have you decided?

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  dick benbow on Sun Jan 25, 2015 4:10 pm

My first meeting was a coffee get together to meet each other and explain to my cabinet maker what a tokonoma was. Fortunately for me they as a family had hosted numerous japanese students over the years
and had a strong interest.

Next meeting was at my new place of residence to see the location and talk of design modifications. It was confirmed that the height would be 7 foot to the top of the valance down to the base of the toko to be 6-8 inches off the floor. The toko's base would be red laquer with inside quarter inch round painted laquer black.
The left side of the toko would be the light source and portrayed as a shoji screen window.

Next get together will be for exact color. So I have yet to visit a paint store to get swatches of color that can be matched to what I decide.

The corner post on the right is not exactly what I want but will small enough tht I hope to be able to surround with a bigger post hollowed out with the right look.

A couple of days ago, I got the estimate for the work...( if I was in japan I woul mockingly grab the pocket that contains my wallet, fall to the ground and holler " EE-Tai-Yo" in exaggerated pain. He sent a simple drawing of the plan of which I was not able to copy.

Next plan is in a week or so to meet with color swatches and go over the colors on the various elements of the toko including the floor to be lightly stained a brown. Thinking the use of maple here.

Next weekend we move into the new place with the sale of our olde place.

As soon as I get it erected on site I'll have pictures to share. Then I hope to be able to share some displays.
Jonathan maples is doing a reconditioning of an old japanese scroll that I intend to use in the fall that features drying grass heads in the fall winds.

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  dick benbow on Sat Feb 14, 2015 3:42 pm

next week I'm off with the cabinet maker to go to the folks that will be adding the finishes to the Toko. The floor will be stained, the floor risers matched to red and black laquer.Once they're done it will be assempled in my living room and I'll be able to begin sharing photos. The toko will be informal in style, because I think that gives me an opportunity to work with designs I more appreciate. And having worked hard at learning Toko display, formal with it's exact construction dictates was not an option.

While depending upon which "school" of instruction you go with in toko display, I can cover the stained floor with a colored felt cloth to avoid those who take exception with wooden stands on a wooden floor.Blue,green,red have all been used before.

the valance on top will have lights and the cords will be hidden in the support columns by creating a groove in the back to run the cords in.

It's getting close...Smile

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  dick benbow on Wed Feb 18, 2015 2:16 pm

I thought it might be helpful to understand my thoughts on selecting the style of toko that I did.

Basically if you have looked into the subject, you've learned there are three styles.Formal, semi-formal and informal. The styles are dictated by the items used in the construction, including
square milled posts, round posts with bark or limb removed knobs apparrent etc. Maybe you've seen pictures from teachers in japan that had special buildings made to have numerous styles of toko included for their students.

But what dictates what style of toko one would consider for their reidence? And that is what style of house do you have. Just the same concept would be to see a mercedes benz parked out in the weather, no cover, in front of a delapadated 900 square foot house. What you'd expect to see was this car parked out in the paved driveway of a three car garage with several thousand feet of elegant styled residence behind it. And a toko style should reflect the home it is going into. In my case, it is going into a manufactured home located in a gated community with tiny lots and reduced square footage. A very minimal retirerment residence. So my selection was informal.

Because a toko reflects the residence, it doesn't mean that only that type of display can be made in it. So I can have a formal display in an informal toko. This morning I'm off with the cabinet maker to talk with the finishers of the project. I have color charts to share with them on how I's like the finishes to look. I don't know if I'll get a chance to take pictures but I'll take my camera along with me.

We're getting closer...Smile Wish me luck

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  Andre Beaurain on Wed Feb 18, 2015 3:12 pm

mmmm Interesting food for thought ...... My house was build in 1857, stone foundations, mud brick walls, and corrugated Iron roof ( use to be thatch till 1940's)

Its weird, I was contemplating using thatch for the roof of my outdoor tokonoma, because of our tribal huts, but this will fit in even more with house, in what you are saying...

Thanks Dick for your updates, you are definately helping in my African- Tokonama design

What are you going to use for your Tokobashira, I gather it being informal it will be organic as possible, and not the dreaded square post, which is so boring. me thinks.

Love and light

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  Precarious on Wed Feb 18, 2015 3:58 pm

Dick, I really appreciate your sharing this journey that seems so personal and heartfelt. I have done some little study on the tokonoma, and can appreciate the idea of 'sacred space' from its Buddhist history. It seems a good way to center, or redirect, oneself in the face of a hectic daily life. There really is no western equivalent. Maybe a shadow of it can be seen in a 'quiet room', a sunroom, or a garden, where you can go to personally recharge. Now you've got me thinking about our house... I don't know that I would choose to follow a technically accurate tokonoma, but an alcove dedicated to following the spirit of the tokonoma is really appealing.

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  dick benbow on Wed Feb 18, 2015 4:05 pm

David I really think you've put your finger on the "essence" as being the most important. Yes, it's nice to know the various rules, but bottom line, it's your alcove and it should provide for you what you hope to get out of it.

I think many cultures appreciate the seasons of nature and of life. It's good to be able to quietly appreciate them in the sanctity of your own home.

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  dick benbow on Wed Feb 18, 2015 7:28 pm

Well, I got to see the cabinet worker's design. I was very pleased with his work. The meeting with the company that will paint/finish the work took about 45 mnutes
and also went well. I took some pictures as they unloaded the van. When it comes together you'll get a better picture but I'll share what I have, tho kinda disjointed.
The project reminds me of a "tinker toy" in so much as all the pieces fit together. The box is a "biwa" that may be moved to either end of the toko to accomodate a figurine depending on how the tree faces. The left side will have a shoji screen panel look to it to be the light source. The valnce for the lights comes in three pieces.
Once it is in the house assembled, i think it will make more sense. Baseboards will be laquer red. I was warned it takes 28 days to properly harden.

 




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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  dick benbow on Fri Mar 06, 2015 3:34 am

call came in tonight...toko gets delievered/installed monday late morning. I'll have photos Smile

could have had it Friday morning but unknowingly I scheduled a trout fishing outing with an olde dear friend.

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  JimLewis on Fri Mar 06, 2015 1:53 pm

I scheduled a trout fishing outing with an olde dear friend.

Hope you catch a mess of them, but I know it doesn't matter if you don't. Enjoy the friendship.

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  dick benbow on Fri Mar 06, 2015 2:02 pm

thanks Jim, My fishing partner recently retired from World Vision and was on call 24/7 in case of disasters any where in the world that needed supplies and transportation co-ordinated to get help there fast. Great stories while fishing.

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  Guest on Fri Mar 06, 2015 4:06 pm

Hi Dick

Look forward to to see the finished tokonoma... you Lucky guy Smile

Kind regards Yvonne

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  dick benbow on Sat Mar 07, 2015 12:14 am

Fishing trip was a "bust" so wish I could have cancelled it and brought in the toko. But sometimes it seems that all good things require a wait Smile

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  dick benbow on Sun Mar 08, 2015 2:22 am

So today I sorted thru my shiishi boards and found a nice artistry of a Bird's nest with 3 eggs in it. Admitt I'm getting excited to put in my first display in the new toko. I have several quinces both japanese and chinese in bloom so one will be selected for the main bonsai. I don't see anything that wasn't a duplication for a kusamono or tenpai so it may be only a two piece display. Once I pick the best flowering quince, I can then select the matching table. I do have a plastic figure of a snail, that I could use as a third element or I may slip it onto the quince table as something more subtle.

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Re: On building a tokonoma

Post  dick benbow on Mon Mar 09, 2015 9:02 pm




took a coupla hrs to put together. I need to get the shogee screen on the left as source of light. also need to string the wire across the top back to hang the scrolls off of.
Te box or biwa on the right can be moved left or right or taken out all together. Gotta start filling back up the piggy bank so I can get some lights done by an electrician.
The cabinet maker left space in thevalance and posts to run cord thru.

some display schools don't care for wood tables on a wood floor but it can be easily covered with a felt colored cloth. Blue,red,green even black will work.

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Re: On building a tokonoma

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