In Japanese culture the Tokonoma is literally the Place of Beauty.
The decorative alcove, called Tokonoma in Japanese, is considered one of the four essential elements in the main hall of a noble residence. The word Tokonoma can be the alcove itself, or the room containing the alcove.
There are some guidelines to a Tokonoma. There is generally a place to hang a picture or calligraphic poem. There’s usually a small shelf for a flower arrangement, perhaps a vase. You’ll probably also find an incense holder. A traditional Japanese family would have a variety of object and scrolls that they would display in the Tokonoma depending on the season or nearest holiday.
Upon entry to a traditional Japanese tea house, for example, you’ll typically spend a few moments in front of your host’s Tokonoma kneeling and observing. If you’re polite, you’ll talk about the objects on display. Zen, responsible for both the Tokonoma and the tea ceremony, asks us to pay attention to the smaller details in life, finding beauty in simplicity.
Special guest sit closest to the Tokonoma, hence closest to Beauty.