For those who don't live in Japan or have never visited, tatami is a thick mat of rice fiber and woven straw that is used as flooring in at least one of the rooms of a typical Japanese apartment or house. Each mat is about 2.5 - 5.5 cm thick and is usually 90 cm wide by 180 cm long. Since tatami size is fairly uniform, often people will tell you the size of a room or house by how many tatami are in it. In our apartment, the small kitchen and bathroom have wood flooring, but all of the other living space has tatami.
I still remember the feeling of stepping onto our tatami for the first time. It was firmer and denser than I expected, but still had a bit of give and springiness to it. Unfortunately, I was a bit dazed after traveling with the children and not sleeping in over 36 hours, so I wasn't able to properly savour the moment.
|This is not our apartment; our tatami has never looked|
In saying this, I have come to loathe tatami, at least in this phase of my life. It would be fabulous in a bedroom, but we have it everywhere. This means every little mess our kids make, every piece of food dropped, every drooly patch from William, and worse lands straight on the highly absorbent, easily stained, and incredibly difficult to clean floor. We have put an area rug underneath our table to protect the tatami from inevitable foods spills each meal, but it still doesn't protect it from the occasional glass of water, juice, or even worse, milk, that gets tipped over by the elbows of our clumsy son. So far I have had the pleasure of cleaning all forms of food and drink, vomit, urine, and poop from our tatami. The only uncharted territory for me is blood and wine, but it is only a matter of time. I have become insanely jumpy about anything spilling on it, but short of trading our children in for robots, I can't think of any way of preventing the occasional unforeseen accident or emergency.
|Our own little tatami model showing off the silky soft|
qualities of our floor.
For anyone interested in the tatami making industry, and how and how often mats are changed, I found this photo essay by Keith Graff very interesting and informative.