Feel Essence and Goodness of Japanese Tatami Mats at One Touch!

Feel Essence and Goodness of Japanese Tatami Mats at One Touch!

One significance of visiting Japan is the timeless traditional houses, built and cared for hundreds of years, providing not only shelters for its owners, but also preserving the tradition and legacy of Japanese culture.  Because of the detailed and carefully crafted structure of the houses, these houses still stand despite the different seasons of Japan. Along with the wooden structure and sliding doors, these houses are well-known and characterized by the aesthetic and intricate mats called Tatami.

The origins of today's tatami mats may be traced back to the Heian era. The straw pile thickened and the number of sizes standardized. The rooms were entirely carpeted with tatami mats during the Muromachi era, with the introduction of architecture known as shoindukuri (書院造), as depicted in the image. Tatami mats had become an important component of Japanese architecture by the Edo era. This is also the origin of the name which literally translates "to pile'' (tatamu - 畳む).

Tatami mats date back to at least the Nara period, in the 8th century. They were originally used primarily for sleeping, and only for nobility and upper-class citizens. Around the 16th century, tatami mats began to be used as flooring to cover entire rooms, rather than only for sleeping or sitting.

At this time, they were still primarily for the upper classes, and Japanese architecture was developing into the style we now associate with traditional Japanese homes. By the 17th century, tatami mats were common among all levels of society, and it became normal for most houses to predominantly have tatami mat floors.

In recent years, there has been a decline in their popularity, largely due to difficulty in cleaning the grass material, along with the need to occasionally replace them. However, it is still very common for Japanese houses to have at least one room with a tatami mat floor.

Later on, Tatami mats are used to cover the whole flooring of a room. These days, Tatami mats are known to provide an aesthetic and minimalist look for the house as well as a calm atmosphere due to its fine and soothing fragrance. While contemporary homes employ a variety of flooring materials, many will feature at least one tatami area that may be used as a sitting room or a bedroom by spreading out a tatami mattress known as a futon. Whether in a temple, restaurant, or inn, you're bound to come across some tatami mat rooms on your travels.

Tatami mats are made from Igusa grass (soft rush), which are processed to get the fibers, and woven to make sheets called Tatami facing. The structure of tatami consists of doko (base), omote (cover), and heri (border). Kumamoto, Hiroshima, Okayama, Fukuoka, and Kouchi are well-known for cultivating the rush, or igusa, from which the mats are made. 4000 to 7000 rush pieces are required to produce one tatami mat. Machines can now finish the weaving operation in roughly an hour and a half.

The regular tatami mat also comes in two sizes: one with a 2:1 ratio and one half that size. Tatami mats are designed to fit the space rather than the other way around. So, while a standard size exists, it is not the sole choice. Tatami mats are often bought to match the dimensions of the space. Aside from that, there are four conventional sizes: Kyouma (京間), Chuukyouma (中京間), Edoma (江戸間), and Danchima (団地間).

A tatami room is used to entertain visitors, have tea rituals, or contain a religious altar in traditional Japanese culture. The airy design, straw matting, and basic décor of the space also served to relieve the heat of Japan's humid summers. Tatami rooms are frequently utilized as living rooms or sleeping quarters nowadays.

 What kind of tatami is "Washi tatami"?

washi tatamiWashi Tatami Sheet is made of Japanese paper and cotton. Tatami is made of Igusa or a rush grass and rice straw is the traditional Japanese floor material, beautiful but weak if not used carefully. The Washi Tatami Sheets, made of Japanese paper, are much stronger, scratch-resistant, better in lightfastness, water-repellent and available in different colors and weaving patterns. Washi tatami sheets make it possible to bring the aesthetics of tatami into wall panels, upholstery, carpets and mats, while still using natural materials.

Did you know that Washi Tatami are 3 times more durable than regular Tatami mats and can be walked on with slippers or shoes without any discomfort. They have the look of straw mats, but are made with Washi which is twisted, reinforced, and surface coated. The mats are woven in the same way as traditional Tatami and Washi Tatami is designed to be resistant to water/moisture, dirt, fade, and mold.

It is easy to create the atmosphere of a Japanese room even if you aren’t but desire the ambiance of a Japanese home, by using “Washi Tatami” which is thinner than the Igusa straw mats traditionally used, and can be placed directly on your wood floor.

In addition, it still retains its original color, even in interiors that receive strong natural light, such as rooms in a high-rise building. Washi Tatami is treated with a natural resin coating, therefore it is excellent in repelling water, and spilled liquid can be removed simply by wiping the mats.

Furthermore, there are two types of Washi Tatami are available: Washi with a Fabric hem and without fabric.

  • Types of Japanese paper tatami

There are Two types of paper tatami mats. The first type is long, and the second type has the shape of a square, being exactly half the size of the first type. The two types of tatami are used in such a manner as to fit the contours of the room like a puzzle when laying the flooring. The long tatami comes in at 910 mm wide and 1.820 mm long, and any Japanese person who hears 1 jō ("1 tatami mat") will be able to imagine the size with ease.

To elaborate, the sizes are standardized and are used to show the size of rooms in Japan. For example, "4 tatami mats" (4 jō) means the size of 4 long, and one square tatami mat.

Japanese paper is processed on paper strings and coated with resin. Japanese paper is woven together in a pipe shape to give the tatami mat its finishing. There is also a rich range of variation produced through colors and weaving methods such as a type that is richly colored tatami mat woven from weft yarn in two colors and the other one a tatami mat featuring the characteristic of texturing based on the image of wave ripples.

 Advantages of Japanese paper tatami

washi tatami

  • Less likely to cause mites and mold

Sometimes a bit of mold will grow on your Tatami mat if it is exposed to moisture. It usually infested by tatami bugs or mites that can live in your tatami mats. Their bites are small, red, and itchy and always come in pairs since they bite twice in a row. But worry no more, the developed new material of Tatami using Japanese woven paper got you covered. This surface has high performance which is include resistance to ticks, mold, climate, water and abrasion.

  • Easy to clean

Traditional Tatami often requires meticulous regular cleaning and it really cost time and effort to accomplished it. But since the Japanese paper tatami mat has a resin coating. It is water repellent, that don’t allow moisture to submerge and cause dirt and odor. It makes it much easier and timeless free to clean it in an instance by just wiping it with a typical cloth, a water and bear hands. Additionally, Japanese paper is said to be about three times more durable than rush. Since it is not easily scratched, the replacement period can be extended.

  • Hard to discolor

Plants that lose their leaves in the winter start breaking down chlorophyll in fall. This takes away the green color of leaves. This is same with a Tatami that is made of the base (tatami doko) is made of multilayered rice straw, tightly fastened, and compressed. The cover (omote) is natural igusa (rush). Tatami consists basically of a base, omote and heri edges crafted in to a rectangle. All in other words is a direct plant material that changes color due to weather and climate changes. But the good thing here is that the Japanese paper tatami is nothing like that.

  • Supports floor heating

Summers in Japan can be very hot, with extreme humidity levels and temperature higher than 30 degrees Celsius (86F). Tatami mats are very versatile especially with this season. Since every fiber has the ability to take in air, tatami is very good at insulating and retaining hot air, cooling the room during hot summer days and warming up the place during winter. The natural structure of the fibers used traps the heat inside the room to keep the room cool. Thus, it is a natural air cooling tool to have in house.

Tatami, which is composed of rush, has a strong heat insulation performance and contains air in each material. It can prevent the cold air rising from beneath the floor because it can take in a lot of air with low thermal conductivity. Tatami has the ability to collect and release moisture from the air. The tatami mats collect moisture during the rainy season, keeping the humidity in the room low, and they release moisture during the dry winter, keeping the humidity from falling.

The plant used in making Tatami (Igusa grass) has a characteristic of hygroscopicity, the ability of a solid to absorb moisture from its surroundings. When Tatami mats are laid onto the floor, approximately 1.8 liters of moisture can be absorbed. It is one of the reasons why Tatami mats are a perfect choice of keeping the air cool during the summer season. On the other hand, Tatami mats are able to release humidity as well, making it a comfortable option during the dry winter.

Moreover, Tatami's softness enhances its capacity to absorb sound, making it a suitable material for those who have a low tolerance for loud noises. Rush has a sponge-like structure that holds a lot of air in its cross-section (the "wick"). Tatami mats have a high level of durability and a natural barrier-free feature that absorbs shocks softly even when they fall over. They're also thought to help young children maintain a feeling of equilibrium. This air cushion also acts as a sound absorber and sound proofer in the room.

  • Rush residue does not stick to clothes

The fibers of the base of Tatami possess a structure the same as a sponge, and when compressed from 40 centimeters thick, it turns to 5 centimeters. It has a foam-like feeling when stepped into, making it comfortable to sit while maintaining its temperature controlling features. Tatami mat flooring is a fantastic alternative since it creates a relaxing atmosphere in the house, is pleasant to sit on or sleep on, and is a safe, soft surface for children to play on.

More on, The best part is when compared to the usage of western style mattresses and furniture, tatami has been shown to prevent osteoporosis and aid in keeping the spine straight, lowering the risk of spinal abnormalities. While walking barefoot on tatami, the distinctive texture provides stimulation to the soles of the feet that help to improved brain function, especially in newborns and the elderly. When opposed to tougher tiles or concrete flooring, tatami is also easier to land on in the event of a fall. Tatami are a lot better than carpeting over cement or a wooden floor, but they're still fairly solid and don't provide much more padding.

  • Wide variety of colors

washi tatami color

If you've never been in a Tatami room, you might be shocked to find that it has a distinct odor. The scent is characterized as nostalgic by many Japanese, reminding them of the smell at a relative's house when they were children. Tatami mat flooring have a lot of drawbacks, but they also have a lot of appeal. They have a unique aroma that is sweet and robust without being overpowering.

Newly manufactured tatami mats have a distinct greenish tint and a grassy aroma, but the color and scent diminish over time. To keep the margins tidy, the mats are generally bordered with a cloth border. Tatami mat flooring that is meant to be put over hardwood floors is now available, making it simple to transform any space into a tatami mat room. Tatami mat flooring will become familiar to anybody visiting or living in Japan fast. It's known for its soothing aroma, natural texture, and cozy feel.

Tatami mats have maintained their place as an essential part of Japanese society, from their origins as a resting space for royalty through their usage in martial arts to their widespread use today in homes, tea places, restaurants, and more. Rush is a classic Japanese fragrance that soothes both Japanese and non-Japanese people. It is a natural fragrance generated by a technique called mudding that is solely used for rush, and it is a historic scent that is a cornerstone of Japanese culture. It has a soothing effect that is similar to going for a walk in the woods, and its naturally mild smell soothes our tired minds and bodies. The “aromatherapeutic effect” of the perfume components present exclusively in the rush scent emerging from new tatami matting refreshes and calms both mind and body.

Disadvantages of Japanese paper tatami

If you've never encountered a tatami room before, you may be surprised to learn that tatami has a unique smell. For many Japanese, the smell is described as sweet and/or nostalgic, reminding them of the smell at a relative's home when they were young. Traditional tatami mats are made of Japanese rush grass and rice straw fill. They are the perfect Japanese style flooring as they provide a firm and comfortable platform to walk on and a soft and pleasant platform to sleep on. Yet since Japanese paper tatami mats do not have the unique scent of rush. The scent of rush is said to have a relaxing effect. Some people may find it difficult to feel calm when lying down on tatami mats. For those who want the relaxing effect of rush on tatami mats, Japanese paper tatami mats may be a little unsatisfactory since they are not accustom to its evolution. The elasticity is slightly reduced, so the dented part may not be restored when the furniture is placed. So, if you are accustomed to the elasticity of rush, you may feel a little bit strange. And besides since it was modernized the price is higher because of its higher performance than Japanese paper tatami mats and rush tatami mats.

tatami craftsman

Difference between "Washi tatami" and "Ryukyu tatami"

The Ryukyu tatami is originally made by weaving a plant called "Igusa (soft rush)."Since it originates from plants, inevitably, tatami will have somewhat of a varied quality. It is easy to see that the color and thickness of each and every weave is different for the Igusa Tatami. In addition to that, since it is made from plants, there are cases where some countries prohibit the import of igusa tatami or require a quarantine inspection.

The tatami woven using a very sturdy traditional Japanese paper "Washi"  is called a "Washi Tatami."

The visual and the texture of the washi tatami is no different from igusa tatami, and since the washi tatami is manufactured in a factory, the quality is uniform and there is no need for the hassle with quarantine inspections.

In addition to that, each and every strand of the washi is coated with resin materials, and so the durability and its ability to repel water of the washi tatami is incomparable with the igusa tatami. Not only that, the washi tatami has a rich color variation and is mold and mite free, certainly a tatami worth calling special.

Example of using fashionable Japanese paper tatami mats

washi tatami room

Throughout history, tatami mats have been a key part of Japanese culture, design, and even sports. The woven rush grass of tatami mats creates a comforting, relaxing space that can be enjoyed by all. In this guide we cover the origin, uses, and maintenance of tatami mats in modern Japan. Tatami is a style of flooring that is ubiquitous throughout Japan. Traditionally, rush grass (IGUSA) was woven around a rice straw core to keep the tatami mat firm. However, now the rice straw core is often replaced with more modern materials, such as wood chips or polystyrene foam. Newly made tatami mats start out with a strong greenish tinge and a scent of grass, and over time, both the color and scent fade. The mats are usually edged with a fabric border to keep the edges neat.

One of the most well-known uses of tatami mats is as flooring for Japanese martial arts. Traditionally, normal tatami mats are used for their firm yet yielding quality, along with their ability to withstand impact. Karate, judo, and aikido all use tatami, and stepping onto the tatami mat is considered a sacred entering of the martial arts zone.

In modern times, the tatami mats used for martial arts are regularly made of a thick foam, similar to that used for gymnastics. It is made to imitate the texture and qualities of tatami mats while being more durable and flexible. These foam mats are often still referred to as tatami in the martial arts world and are still treated with the same respect as real tatami mats.

With the Westernization of Japan, it has become more and more common for Japanese houses to follow a Western layout and design. This often includes wooden floors. However, it is common to have at least one room featuring tatami mat flooring, which creates a comfortable fusion between traditional and modern, Japanese and Western, allowing one to enjoy the benefits of both. A room like this is commonly referred to as washitsu or “Japanese-style room.”

Having some tatami mat flooring is a great option as it provides a calming space within the home, is comfortable for directly sitting or even sleeping on, and is a safe, soft floor for children to play on. Nowadays, it is possible to buy tatami mat flooring that is designed to be placed over hardwood floors, making it easy to convert any room into a tatami mat room. Other tatami related products are made of Igusa (tatami), such as slippers, book-cover, floor mat, pillow, yoga-mat and under-table-mats

Summary and Conclusion

Tatami mats are large, woven straw mats that measure around one by two meters. Tatami, which was formerly a luxury reserved for the affluent, has progressively become more widespread and can now be found in almost every traditional Japanese home.

Tatami mats have become so widespread in Japanese households that the size of a room is sometimes determined by the number of mats that would fit in it, such as an 8-mat room. It's important to remember to take off your shoes, even if they're slippers, before walking onto the tatami.

Surprisingly, the dimensions of tatami mats differ depending on where you are. Tatami mats in Tokyo are somewhat smaller than those seen in Kyoto, for example. As a result, a 4 12 mat room, which is the standard size for most tea shops, may be somewhat larger in the old capital than in the modern.

The tatami mats appear to assist control indoor humidity, which is hot and humid in the summer and chilly and dry in the winter, according to Japan's peculiar environment. They also work with other Japanese cultural practices, such as wearing no shoes at home and sitting and sleeping on the floor.

It is important to maintain tatami mats clean and well aired. If you're eating or drinking on Tatami mats, make careful to pick up crumbs and clean up spills. In these situations, a vacuum cleaner or a J cloth will suffice. Using an anti-bug spray every two months or so isn't a bad idea. If tatami becomes damp, it can get ruined, mildew can grow, and fleas can thrive. Wipe using a dry cloth instead of a moist cloth. If you do use a moist cloth, be sure you follow up with a dry cloth and air to ensure it is completely dry. After squeezing the tatami firmly, apply diluted neutral detergent on a towel and wipe it off. Remove the discoloration with a gentle rubbing motion. (If any neutral detergent remains on the tatami, the water-repellent will be ruined, so make sure to fully wash it off.)

Most people are aware that when entering a Japanese house, it is customary to remove your shoes and replace them with comfy slippers. What about tatami, though? When it comes to traditional straw mats, the only acceptable footwear is barefoot or with socks - no slippers are permitted. This is done to keep the mats clean since they are easy to vacuum or dust but difficult to wash. Prepare to remove your shoes if you see tatami as a flooring!

You can find your favorite Washi tatami from a variety of types and colors at Waka Store.