Tamati Mat: Standing on a Cloud

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Last updated: April 10, 2023

Table of Contents

  1. What are Tamati Mats?
    1. Increasing Popular in the West
  2. Are Tatami Mats Comfortable?
  3. Typical Uses for Tatami Mats
  4. Tatami Mats are Vulnerable to Mold
  5. How to Clean Tamati Mats with Mold
  6. How to Obtain Modern Tatami Mats
  7. For In the Final Analysis
    1. Learn more about Cheap versus Premium Tamati Mats on Youtube

What are Tamati Mats?

Tatami is a Japanese word that comes from Chinese. The name tatami is derived from the verb tatamu which means “to fold” or “to pile”, according to the Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan.

Tatami mats have been used for over a thousand years and are still in use today.  They vary in size but they are often 3 feet by 6 feet.  They also could be folded up or piled in layers and are referred to as single-layered mats.

Tatami mats are a Japanese tradition, an important part of Japanese culture, and are recognized as traditional flooring used in tea houses and Japanese homes for style and comfort.  They are mostly used by Japanese families in traditional Japanese-style homes.

Japanese Interior Design Style Room

Tatami mats are woven straw mats that are commonly used in Japanese bedrooms to be slept on. They are made by weaving together rice straw, which is a by-product of the rice manufacture process using a technique developed by the Japanese during the late Heian period (794-1185).  The mats are woven in a herringbone pattern and are slightly elastic.  The mats are then coated with starch glue as the powder from the rush plant helps keep the mats in place.

In recent years, Tatami mats have become popular in Western countries.  Most modern tatami mats are not made from rice straw but are a mixture of wood shavings and waste paper but are covered with a fiber-like straw. While the new product is more affordable than the traditional product, it is not as durable, so you may want to consider buying the traditional product if you intend these mats for a long time.

They are great for your home or office and are a natural alternative to other hard or carpeted floorings. In use since the 7th century, their recent meteoric popularity is largely the result of more people looking to natural ways to make their homes more environmentally friendly.

It is possible to buy tatami mats that are already bound and finished, but for the more technically-minded, or a more individualized approach, a method of binding the mats yourself is also available and can be purchased online and in most home improvement stores.

Traditional Japanese Style Bedroom Interior Design

Are Tatami Mats Comfortable?

Tatami mats are light, flexible, and typically three or four inches thick. This added thickness contributes to the comfort of tatami mats, keeping them soft underfoot and helps reduce the amount of noise that is made when they are walked upon. While they do have a bit of giving, they are not as comfortable as a thick area rug or an area rug with a pad. The small size of Tatami mats can present challenges for those with mobility issues.

Typical Uses for Tatami Mats

Though these mats are traditionally associated with the bedroom, they can be used in other rooms as well. They’re especially useful in a playroom or a family room because they can be soft and absorbent. 

They also offer a soft and comfortable surface to sit on and insulate against heat, cold, and noise.  Even though tatami mats are great for the floor, you can also use them on tables, chairs, shelves, and even walls with great effect. You can even use them as blankets and pillows on a futon, as this is how they are often used in Japan.

Interior of traditional japanese home with Tamati mats

Tatami Mats are Vulnerable to Mold

Tatami mats are a great way to add a touch of class and style to your home. A traditional Japanese style of room with tatami floors is considered a traditional way to live, but traditional Japanese style comes with unique challenges. 

Tatami mats are woven from the stalks of rice plants and can carry a musty smell you wouldn’t expect from something so traditional.  These mats are susceptible to mold growth as mold is a major problem in many household environments.  Mats are especially vulnerable as they are made of straw and since it is a natural material, the mold tends to grow in the space between the mat itself.  

Mold exposure is a major problem for people that live in areas of high humidity or don’t have great ventilation.  Mold is not a cosmetic issue alone since the exposure has been associated with significant health problems for many people including allergies, respiratory, and possibly neurological challenges.

Mold is a type of fungus that can grow in many places, from within homes. It can grow on foods and clothing and can even spread from person to person. If you want to keep the mold at bay, pay attention to these simple tips. 

Mold can’t live without water, though, so drying out the affected area is always the first step.  Always try to keep humidity levels down by controlling indoor temperatures, opening or closing windows, running the air conditioner or the dehumidifier.

The real key to mold removal is in preventing new mold growth before tackling existing mold growth. As a living organism, mold needs food and water, to live or survive.  Its food? Cellulose.  Where do you find cellulose in a home? It is found in drywall, wood, paint, and other building materials. Mold spores circulate through the air, and when they land on a damp spot, it begins to grow.

How to Clean Tamati Mats with Mold

A cleaning inspection shocks Asian woman surprised to discover mold everywhere in kitchen, on countertop, tamati mats, furniture and dirty surfaces needing to be disinfected with antibacterial product.

The mats can be difficult to clean and if you don’t clean them properly, they will get damaged by mold and their lifespan may be shortened, leading to a costly exercise to replace them.

If it’s too late and you’ve discovered mold, you can throw it out and replace it entirely or try to stop it before the mold problem becomes words.  Some old, traditional tricks include using a soft scrubber pad or maybe even a toothbrush and rub it clean with rubbing alcohol.  

There is a commercial product known as a mold killer.  The “kabi killer” is branded as Kabi Kira and is used in bathrooms that must be well-ventilated because of the strong odor which is essentially bleach.  Clearly, you want to be careful how this is used as it could damage surfaces. 

Depending on where you are located, you can look for disposable humidifiers on Amazon or even Alibaba.com which has a myriad of products.  

The most important thing you can do is keep rooms clean, keep airflow and ventilation high, reduce humidity, and adopt extra cleaning measures to keep Tatami mats clean and also reduce the risk of mites infestation.  Keep a broom handy and if you use a vacuum, use portable vacuums for soft and sensitive cleaning.  But if you use a regular vacuum, do so along with the weaves of the Tatami mat.

How to Obtain Modern Tatami Mats

As mentioned earlier, tatami was originally weaved together by a rush plant called “Igusa”.  Given its natural beginnings, quality has always varied due to plant origin and has even presented complications with import into some countries because it originates from a plant and thus, subject to quarantine measures.

Modern-day Tatami Mats have since evolved thanks to Japanese ingenuity and are now manufactured in a factory.   Modern materials as mentioned can be varied but one company has created a new tatami using sturdy Japanese paper called “Washi”.   

Washi Tatami is virtually similar to traditional Igusa Tatami but has the added advantage of uniform quality and importation rules are eliminated.  

Most importantly, the Washi Tatami is coated so that it remains durable, repels water, and is mold and mite-free!  The color variety is also an added benefit and option which is not possible with traditional Tatami.

small wooden house in Japanese style

Kunieda Co., located in the city of Gifu, manufactures and sells Washi Tatami.  Gifu Prefecture is known for its traditional Washi paper industry, where Gifu lanterns and umbrellas are made.  As well, it is the center for Japanese cutlery and swordsmithing industries.  To purchase Tatami Mats online from Kunieda Co., please visit their website for details.

Full-sized tatami mats can weigh as much as 66lbs but companies like Kunieda Co., have produced lighter mats weighing 10-20lb because of their use of Washi while other companies may use a blend of insulation foam and compressed fiberboard which may be as resilient for long term use as foam breaks down.  Since the most foam is a petroleum by-product, it is not environmentally friendly if this is important to you.

A real made-in-Japan tatami mat of equivalent size, hand-woven by artisans, could cost more than $1,000 per mat, excluding shipping costs.  This is expensive but if you’re looking for durable, traditional, and quality workmanship from artisans, it’s going to be well worth your while and a “better than your average” coffee table book for conversation.

For In the Final Analysis

Traditional japanese tea house

We are fans of Japanese culture, traditions, and history.   We are also fans of Japan’s zen and minimalist approaches to lifestyle and living. 

You may not have an idea how to approach this.  We always aim for traditional routes.  

If you want the best Tamati Mats, buy from Japan.  If you want to create a tamati room to entertain your visitors, to use for meditation and tea sessions with your friends, or to use as a space for religious, spiritual, or martial arts practice, you really can’t go wrong with high-quality workmanship.

And yes, we did check.  Tatami mats are a thing in Minecraft as well. 

Learn more about Cheap versus Premium Tamati Mats on Youtube

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