For those of you who are/will be visiting Japan for the first time, one of those little moments you feel “Waoh, I am really in Japan” is when you enter a traditional Japanese house and you step – for the first time maybe – on… a tatami mat !
Tatami 畳 is the floor covering of traditional Japanese houses and temples. Similar to a stray mat, it is made of several rice straw layers, interlaced and compressed, and covered with a thin layer of a rush called 藺草 igusa (Juncus effusus) which is also laced. The edges of the mat are protected with a hem made of fabric. Its dimension is traditionally fixed (88 cm x 176 cm or 91 cm x 182 cm). Tatami is even used as a measure for house and rooms surface. In the case, the kanji 畳 is pronounced jô.
Beyond its eminently cultural dimension in Japan, the tatami also has a lot of “practical advantages”, turning it into an interesting alternative to those who are fed up with too classic wooden floor, tiles or dusty carpets ^^ For example :
-1- Healthy !
To sleep in a futon placed on a tatami is good for the back. Unlike western style bed mattresses which are often too soft, the relative relative “firmness” of the tatami helps to adopt a correct position while sleeping and reduce the vertebral column’s joints and muscles tension. Tatami are also good for feet, as walking on it barefoot is not only enjoyable but also nice to the legs and knees as straw natural softness eases the strain endured by lower limbs.
-2- Air purifying
The natural components of the tatami mat allow it to naturally absorb the carbon dioxide in the airand to dissolve it. The ambient air of the room is then purified, to a ceetain extend of course. Furthermore, the unique smell of the rush straw Igusa is said to have an relaxing aromatherapy-effect.
-3- Humidity and mold control
The tatami also have a natural and automatic humidity regulation effect. To a certain point, the dry stray of the mat absorbs the humidity excess of the ambient air, and also the humidity form the body when sleeping on it, through the futon. To avoid accumulating too much humidity, the tatami release som of it regularly during the day. It is like the tatami is breathing ! The naturel phenomenon also help to prevent mold proliferation.
-4-Phonic and heat isolation
Being 5cm thick, tatami mats have a fairly good heat and phonic isolation. The tightly laced straw delays the diffusion of the heat and the syrinx (“pipes”) the straw are made of, in which air is confined, offer a light phonic isolation by absorbing the vibrations.
Choosing tatami is also making a eco-responsible investment! Made of 100% natural material, tatami mats don’t need trees to be cut during their production process. Knowing that it takes roughly 80 years for a tree to be used as material for furniture or flooring, and that it only takes a season to grow rice plants which will feed the people before becoming tatami material, the sustainable and eco-friendly dimension of tatami mats is obvious. Moreover, unlike wood flooring that needs to be replaced when damaged by the time, requiring more wood, the tradition for tatami is to re-use the old straw to creat new tatamis, usually once every 10 or 15 years. the strw padding can then last 30 years or more, using no chemical treatment and rejecting zero by-product in the nature when disposed after their long service in Japanese houses!
If you are interested in experiencing Japanese way of life, there is no point to hesitate any further! While staying in Japan, you can easily discover tatami mat advantages in the countless traditional inn called ryokan. If you are staying for a long period of time, why don’t you try Sakura House Japanese style Share-houses and Apartments! You just have to tick the “Japanese style room (Tatami)” box on our search engine to discover them!
The unique odor of tatami mats and igusa rush often needs few minutes to get used to, as well as for sleeping in a futon, which are firmer than a bed. But we can guarantee your stay in Japan wold be even richer !
Mata ne !
Source: Kotaro Video: Mugumogu