A Brief Guide to Tatami

Cat Sunbathing on Tatami Mats

A cat sunbathing on tatami mats. Photo credit: Monicca (Flickr)

Even if you’ve never been to Japan, you’re probably familiar with tatami flooring. Though it may be hard to believe, tatami hasn’t always been the cultural icon that it is today. Prior to the 16th century tatami and goza mats were reserved exclusively for the ruling elite. It wasn’t until the end of the 17th century that this style of flooring had become a common practice for all social classes.

The making of tatami is a laborious and time-consuming endeavor that involves wrapping woven rush grass around a rice straw core. Traditionally, mats have followed a 2:1 ratio with the length being exactly twice that of the width, though there are half and three-quarter length mats (used in tea ceremony rooms) as well. The rise in popularity of tatami beds has led to specialty sizes meant to fit platform beds perfectly.

Tatami mats have a cushioned yet firm surface, making them ideal for sleeping on. New tatami appears green before tanning with age and gives off a distinct scent that many find pleasurable, though some are put off by it. Like most things, they require occasional care and when used as flooring get damaged relatively easily (though this isn’t a concern if you plan on using it only underneath a shikibuton or with a tatami bed). This along with Western influence has led to a decline in the popularity of tatami flooring, giving way to more practical hardwood floors. Even so, many Japanese homes still maintain at least one tatami room.

PROS

  • Beautiful traditional Japanese look and feel
  • Additional padding for your Japanese futon

CONS

  • Can be easily damaged when used as flooring
  • Originally green before tanning with age

 

Best Goza Mat:  Oriental Furniture

Oriental Furniture Goza Mat

Goza mats differ from tatami mats in that they’re easily mobile (think beach or yoga mat). This makes them perfect for individuals who plan on laying out a shikibuton every day and would like their tatami to do the same. Oriental Furniture makes a 3’ wide by 6’ long goza mat, making it big enough to use with a futon but still quick and simple to roll up. Right at the $60 mark, you won’t find a better price for the quality.

Learn More about Oriental Furniture’s Goza Mat from Amazon

 

Best Tatami Mat:  Oriental Furniture & J-Life

Oriental Furniture and J-Life Tatami Mat

Whether you’re looking for a couple tatami mats to go with your platform bed or enough to cover an entire room, J-Life and Oriental Furniture have you covered. Both brands utilize a double layered top for additional protection and a moisture resistant barrier to prevent mold. The one you choose ultimately comes down to the size you want and your budget.

Oriental Furniture
Sizes:
  • 36” x 72” floor
  • 30” x 80” U.S. queen
  • 38” x 80” U.S. king
  • 36” x 84” California king

Learn More about Oriental Furniture’s Tatami Mat from Amazon

 

J-Life
Sizes:
  • 35.44” x 35.44” half
  • 35.36” x 70.86” standard (floor)
  • 27.5” x 78.7” Euro full
  • 30” x 80” U.S. queen
  • 31.5” x 78.7” Euro queen
  • 38” x 80” U.S. king
  • 35.4” x 78.7” Euro king
  • 36” x 84” Cal. king

Learn More about J-Life’s Tatami Mat from J-Life