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【Culture】The smell of “tatami” mats makes you relaxed and calm2015.07.13

150713

A smell of Japan. Its feel and scent make you relaxed and comfortable.

“Tatami” is a kind of flooring mat used in traditional Japanese rooms. It is unique to Japan. “Tatami” is usually comprised of a woven rush grass covering, a rice straw core and decorative cloth edgings. A “tatami” mat contains 4,000 to 7,000 rushes which give off a pleasant and refreshing odor especially when it is fresh. “Tatami” is so deeply ingrained in Japanese life that the size of a room is measured by the number of the mats fitting it.

It is said that the use of “tatami” dates back to as early as the eighth century. The word “tatami” comes from the verb “tatamu” or “to fold,” which indicates it used to be thin and foldable. In ancient times, it was put on wooden floors as seating and beds for nobles. It was around the 18th century that “tatami” reached the home of ordinary people.

“Tatami” is not a cheap item. The mat made of domestic materials is typically priced at around 12,000 to 20,000 yen. But its benefits may outweigh the cost. First of all, it is ideally suited to the climate in Japan where it is humid in summer and dry in winter. The straw core of a “tatami” mat is pressed tight and has many air pockets, which help absorb water when it is humid and give out water when it is dry. It also excels in elasticity, sound absorbability, heat insulation property and heat-retaining capacity.

Traditionally, the core of “tatami” mats is made of rice straws but modern products often use polystyrene foam and compressed wooden chips. The mats made of synthetic materials are cheaper than those made of rice straws. There are several grades in the covering of rush grass as well. Cheap coverings made of Chinese rush grass have become widely available.

A “tatami” mat requires some maintenance to keep its condition well. It is advised to turn over the covering to use its back side three to five years after the purchase. Then, the covering should be replaced four to five years after using the reverse side.

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