Residential tokonoma (alcove), c. 1910.

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“One of the peculiar features of Japanese life that most forcibly strikes the attention of the foreigner on his first visit to this country is the fact that the homes of the people have no carpets nor even floors in the ordinary sense of the term.

“In the Japanese house carpet and floor are all one; for there are no board floors as in European houses, but straw mats known as tatami, which serve the double purpose of floor and carpet.

“Not only does the tatami do duty as carpet and floor, but does for a seat as well, since in a Japanese house there are no chairs, the inhabitants sitting on cushions on the floor.

“… These tatami floors are soft and cushion-like to tread or sit upon, and very comfortable to recline or sleep on, with a cushion under the head. At night the Japanese spread a futon, or thin mattress, on the tatami and sleep on it, no other bed being necessary; and during the day the bed is stowed away in a closet for the purpose.”

“Japanese Floors”, by Y. Ito, The Japan Magazine, May 1915

A tokonoma. The decorated alcove of a Japanese receptin [sic] room.

“A tokonoma. The decorated alcove of a Japanese receptin [sic] room.” Tokonoma, also referred to simply as toko, is a Japanese term generally referring to a built-in recessed space in a Japanese style reception room, in which items for artistic appreciation are displayed, often calligraphic and/or pictorial, with an arrangement of flowers or bonsai.

“The line used in Japanese architecture is based upon the straight line … The buildings which are thought most typical of Japanese taste, such as Shinto shrines of ancient times, tea ceremony houses of medieval times and dwelling-houses of the present day are all composed of straight lines.

“This characteristic use of the straight line is most obvious in the plan composition, and it is the most rational design when the material used is wood.”

Japanese Architecture, Board of Tourist Industry, Japanese Government Railways, 1936.

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