Translated by Collin Radford
Japanese Encyclopedia: Tatami
Written by Hiromasa Uematsu
Tatami, the traditional Japanese flooring. Laying on tatami is a very soothing experience. In this article, we introduce just what the Japanese find so pleasing about tatami.
Tatami are a type of Japanese flooring that has been used for generations.
Tatami is made by taking a board-shaped piece of material called the tatamidoko and wrapping it in a sheet-like material called the tatamiomote. The tatamiomote is made by weaving fabric from rush grass, the faint fragrance of which can only be experienced in a room with tatami.
There are two types of 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.
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.
From Stroll And Snack In Kyoto: Warabi Mochi From Gion Komori (Japanese)
Even in modern times, the majority of Japanese homes have rooms using tatami mats. These are typically referred to as washitsu (Japanese room).
If you're sleeping in a washitsu, you would use a futon on the floor rather than a bed. However, there are some cases where lodgings for tourists set up beds in washitsu to make the Japanese experience more accessible.
From A Safe, Fun, And Enjoyable Time At Yanaka's Kayaba Coffee Shop (Japanese)
There may be some countries where sleeping on the floor is less than polite. It's not something considered to be in good manners in Japan either, but laying down and stretching out on a tatami mat puts Japanese people into a calm mood.
Tatami mats are soft, and have the calming scent of rush grass, which make them very soothing.
If you find yourself in a room with tatami in Japan, try laying down on the floor. You are sure to understand the love the Japanese have for tatami.