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What actually is

Tatami about?


Wan-kun said “Washitsu:Japanese style rooms make me feel comfortable.I feel like the room is giving off a subtle scent.That’s my favorite.” and asked me”So,what is Tatami actually??”
“Tatami is a mat made of rice straw by rush weaving.Rush is called Igusa in Japanese.It is said that Igusa has many relaxing effects.” Although,Nyapan tried to answer from my vague knowledge, I quickly checked out what Tatami actually is!
I told Wan-kun,Tatami is a type of mat used as flooring in traditional Japanese style rooms.This is one of the unique parts of Japanese culture,which is unlike any other in the world.The origin of Tatami dates back to ancient times.People used to use thin rush mats(Mushiro) or straw mats(Goza)and they folded up when not in use.The action of folding is translated as “tatamu” in Japanese.This word “tatamu” changed into ”Tatami” and it has become a generic name for Japanese mats,which are made of rush and straw.That’s impressive!
The current type of Tatami started being used in the Heian period(794~1185) among the noble people.Tatami became thick and was only placed for seating or sleeping like a kind of cushion and Tatami gradually were laid wall-to-wall.Tatami mats got thicker and became widespread together with Sado:tea ceremony culture.The edge of the longer side of the rectangular Tatami became wrapped by a green cloth.This is called”Tatami beri(hem cloth)”.The colors and patterns of the cloth had restriction,depending on social status.For instance,the Emperor and Empress who are the highest in status, used the Tatami mat with ungenberi-rim which was the colorful one,as you could see a prince and princess in Kimono sitting on it.This hem cloth exactly looks like first-class quality!During the Edo period(1603–1867),Tatami was highly regarded.People thought that Tatami itself was the essential element for architecture and there were people even in official positions called “Tatami bugyo
(magistrate)”  who managed Tatami in the cases of repairing works for castles or samurai residences.
There still is a convention not to step on the hem(border) of Tatami.Japanese are often taught that “Stepping on the hem of Tatami could give a judgment on you.”
Although there are some theories, one of the them is that many families have used hem clothes containing their own family crests.So,it’s said that stepping on it seemed to be rude behavior.It makes sense.Another more practical theory is that it was a rule to protect this part so as not to damage by your feet.Because Tatami used to be very expensive.The world of Tatami is deep.No matter how Japanese life style has become westernized nowadays, lying around on a Tatami mat is a blissful moment and has feelings of nostalgia …it might be incorporated into Japanese genes?! But Wan-kun also really enjoys it and I see many people from overseas loving Tatami and Futon.I think Tatami may have universal appeal.
The standard size of Tatami measures180cm length by 90cm width, but it depends on regions or places.Generally in Kansai:Western area has a little bigger than Kanto:Eastern area. I’ll have explain about it for Wan-kun next time!
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