Japanese Culture Teaching Notes



Tatami is a thick firm mattress to cover the Japanese-style room floor. Recently, there are more foreign-style houses than Japanese-style houses.

Tatami has a long history. Emperor Shoumu used tatami as a bed in the Nara era (710-794). It was the beginning of tatami. In Heian era (794-1192), some rules were made about the use of tatami. People in different social ranks had to use different kinds of tatami. There were some rules about thickness of tatami and color and patterns of its edge. The edge of tatami for the emperor was made of the best silk fabrics. In the middle of Edo era (about 1730), tatami came into use among common people. In the Meiji era (1867-1911), farmers started using it.

In Japan, we usually explain the size of a room by counting the number of tatami mats which fit the room. For example, my room is flooring but I say, "My room is four and a half mat size." The size of a tatami is different from place to place. Tatami is classified into three types: kyou-ma, chuukyou-ma and kantou-ma. Today, kantou-ma type of tatami is the most popular.

type of tatami length width
Kyou-ma 191cm 95.5cm
Chuukyou-ma 180cm 90cm
Kantou-ma 176cm 88cm

Tatami is made of rush. The kind of rush to make tatami is called igusa. If you look at the surface of tatami closely, you can see that tatami is woven. To weave one surface of tatami, they use about four to five thousand pieces of rush. But the craftsperson doesn't use rush immediately after it has been harvested. They sort the rush by its use and grade (e.g., quality, length, color, etc.) before they use it. Nowadays the core is made of a particle wooden bark mesh. Unlike the original rice straw core, this material is pests free, easy to maintain, and suitable for various climates. Mats will gradually turn from sage-green to golden color as it ages.

Rush have some good effects, for example, tatami cleans air in the room because the rush of tatami absorbs carbon dioxide. The rush is soaked in the mud immediately after harvest. This process keeps rush from changing of color and it also makes the next process easier. The infrared rays are shed by this mud. Because of the lack of infrared rays, rush makes you relax. Also, rush has another wonderful function. Rush absorbs water when humidity in the room is high. When the humidity of the room is low, it discharges water. This also prevents an increase of ticks in the tatami.

Tatami is widely used by Japanese people. Because tatami is good to keep the room warm and let the air through. Therefore, you feel cool in summer when you sit or stand on tatami, and you feel warm in winter when you sit or stand on tatami.

Posted by ・Andrea :: 5:28 PM :: 1 Comments:

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