Tatami – Traditional Japanese rice straw flooring

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In most Japanese homes, you can find a covering and flooring called tatami [畳]. It is a floor made of rice straw, used for a long time among the Japanese. What are your advantages? Why do the Japanese use it?

In this article, we will see the history of tatami, its origin, where it is usually used, what it is used for, how it is maintained, measures and many other curiosities to solve all your doubts about this traditional Japanese floor.

How are the mats?

Tatami is made from a rice straw material, and has been used since the Muromachi Period. At the time, the floor was even considered a luxury item. This floor can be found in many traditional rooms called washitsu (和室).

In martial arts, the tatami is the floor used for training in a dojo and for competing. It is also recommended for spine correction by massage therapists and physicians in general; in Oriental-style decor; in the practice of yoga, meditation, relaxation and anti-stress treatments.

Read too: Top 10 Japanese Martial Arts + List

The mats are covered with igusa [藺草] reed straw. The core is traditionally made from rice straw, but contemporary ones sometimes have compressed wood boards or polystyrene foam cores.

The long sides can be embroidered in hero [縁] with brocade or plain fabric. The tatami is composed of 3 parts known as doko (interior), omote (surface) and fuchi (edge).

Tatami and tatami - Know the traditional Japanese floor

How big is a mat?

Tatami mats are made in standard sizes, twice as long as they are wide and can change depending on the region. A standard tatami is 90cm x 180cm and 5cm thick.

Tatami mats have become so common in Japan that they are used as a measure for rooms. Many Japanese, instead of using , say the number of mats in the room, in order to reach an understanding of the size.

Além do padrão, existe uma meia esteira chamada de hanjō [半畳] e uma esteira de três quartos de comprimento, que é usada em salas de cerimônia do chá, chamada daimedatami [大目].

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The size of the mat traditionally differs between regions in Japan:

  • Kyoto – Tatami kyōma [京間] – 0.955m by 1.91m and 5.5cm thick;
  • Nagoya – Tatami ainoma [合の間] – 0.91m by 1.82m;
  • Tóquio – Tatami edoma [江戸間] | kantōma [関東間] – 0.88m by 1.76m and 6.0cm thick;
Tatami - discover the traditional Japanese flooring

What does tatami mean?

In the West, tatami is widely used to refer to floors and pieces of EVA for children or used in gyms and fight rings. The Japanese tatami made of straw can be more easily found in stores and on the internet if it is written with [i].

In fact, the tatami floors used in fighting and martial arts are also known by the name of shiai-jo. In a dictionary of the Portuguese language, we also find another transliteration that is tatâmi.

Na verdade, o termo tatami é derivado do verbo tatamu [畳む], que significa “dobrar” ou “empilhar”. Isso indica que os primeiros tatames eram finos e podiam ser dobrados quando não usados ​​ou empilhados em camadas.

Antigamente tatami era uma palavra usada para referir-se a qualquer piso dobrável como goza e komo. Seu ideograma [畳] é composto dos kanji arroz, olho, mesa e piso. A forma que os tatmes são colocados em um quarto também recebe nomes diferentes.

Tatami and tatami - Know the traditional Japanese floor

History and Origin of Tatami

Já no período Kamakura (1185-1333) foi introduzido um revestimento de palha de arroz chamado shoindukuri. Esse revestimento era luxo e costumava ser encontrado nas casas de chá ou das realeza, o resto da população vivia em casas com chão batido.

It was only in the Edo period that most houses in Japan had access to this floor. During the Heian Period, the shinden-zukuri aristocratic residences still had a wooden floor, the tatami mats were only used as seats for the aristocrats.

No período Kamakura os pisos tatame começaram a espalhar gradualmente para salas inteiras. As salas totalmente cobertas com o piso passaram a se chamar zashiki [座敷]. Logo essas salas de sentar tiveram suas regras e etiquetas.

Em meados do século 16, a nobreza governante e os samurais dormiam em tatames ou tapetes de tecidos chamados goza [茣蓙], enquanto os plebeus usavam tapetes de palha ou palha solta para a cama. Os tatami foram gradualmente popularizados e alcançaram as casas dos plebeus no final do século 17.

Currently, mats are not usually filled with only pressed rice straw. Today, more resistant materials are used, such as wood pulp, polystyrene or particleboard. The surface is composed of a bamboo or reed web, while its edge is made of fabric and serves as a decorative finish.

We also recommend reading: Kadomatsu - Japanese bamboo decoration

As casas construídas no Japão hoje costumam ter poucos cômodos com piso de tatami, isso se tiver. Os quartos com piso de tatame e outras características arquitetônicas tradicionais são referidos como nihonma ou washitsu, “quartos de estilo japonês”.

Tatami and tatami - Know the traditional Japanese floor

types of tatami

In addition to referring to the traditional flooring of Japanese homes, the word can also indicate other different types of flooring. As mentioned, any type of folding floor can be called a tatami.

No ocidente os tatames são mais conhecidos como a arena de artes marciais como karatê e judo. Esses pisos são chamados de Judo Tatami (柔道畳) e são mais resistentes e possuem um tamanho diferente, sendo feitos de uma maneira diferente.

Caso seu quarto seja no estilo ocidental, existem pisos chamados de Yunitto tatami (ユニット畳) e Oki Tatami (置き畳) que podem ser colocados como tapete nos quartos. Enquanto um piso de palha de arroz novo é da cor esverdeada, ao passar do tempo ele começa a ficar amarelado.

There will come a time when it is necessary to change the mats and take the old one to be recycled. If you take good care of it, it can last up to 6 years. Currently, tatami mats are made by means of factories, while in the past it was handmade by hand.

Tatami and tatami - Know the traditional Japanese floor

Labels and care for tatami floors

It is not allowed to step on the tatami with shoes, not even with suripas (slippers). It is not common to place chairs on this type of floor, they usually sit on the floor or on cushions called zabuton.

In most rooms with this type of flooring, you will find a sliding door. Be careful not to step on the rails (shikii), this is considered rude and can cause damage. Also avoid stepping on the edges of the floor to avoid wear. In tatami rooms you must sleep using the famous futons, you must choose furniture and objects that will suit the kotatsu well.

You cannot throw water in a tatami room, cleaning is usually done with a vacuum cleaner or a damp cloth. These rice straw floors tend to attract a lot of mites, so there are products designed to avoid mites. What do you think of this floor? Leave your opinion and tips in the comments.

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Where to buy a mat?

Finding EVA tatami flooring is easy, but finding traditional flooring is tricky. You will also easily find meditation pillows with rice straw bottoms.

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