When you think of Japan, what do you think of? Giggling geisha, wrestling sumo, the snowy peaks of Mount Fuji, delicate cherry blossoms, kooky anime, karate, sushi, robots and karaoke? All of these are correct but how about tatami mats?
Tatami actually lies at the heart of Japanese culture, considering that the majority of houses contain tatami rooms. They are a traditional woven straw flooring that are unique to Japan and when paired with the old style sliding doors, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time to the days of the samurai. You can feel at one with nature and a Japanese culture connoisseur whilst basking in the ambiance of tatami.
Tatami Is The Basis Of A Japanese Style Room
That’s right! A Japanese style room without tatami would be like chips without vinegar, a day without sunshine, a scone without cream & jam… you get the idea. It’s true that homes in Japan nowadays are becoming more westernized with wooden flooring etc but many homes still have at least one tatami room to use as a sitting area, for celebrations, for guests or even as a bedroom to use a futon in.
A special type of tatami is also used for martial arts such as judo, karate or kendo. Temples, restaurants and inns may also have tatami rooms so you’re bound to experience the joys of tatami when traveling Japan. There are two types of placement for tatami mats; Shugijiki which is the most popular way done in normal households and Fushugijiki which is only used for funerals as a custom to avoid bad luck. Shoes must always be removed before stepping onto tatami as it can damage them. Sitting manners are also very important when sitting on tatami, especially if you’re a guest. One should try their best at seiza position (find out how below) until your host insists you relax, whereby it’s ok to sit casually in a crossed legged position. Tatami is also necessary for the perfect Japanese tea room experience…
“It is popular for its calming scent, natural texture, and comfortable feel” – RealEstate-Tokyo
Japanese Tea Room & Tea Ceremony Are Precious To Japanese
Tea ceremonies date back to the 9th century and are a beautiful cultural activity continued today that involves the ceremonial preparation and presentation of powdered green tea A.K.A. Matcha. Yet, you can’t have a ceremony without the right setting… and the right setting is in a Japanese tea room A.K.A Chashitsu. A typical room is made of wood with elegant sliding doors and finished off with tatami mats. The Japanese take their tea very seriously; they even have schools to learn ‘the way of tea’ correctly with the principles during a tea ceremony as: respect, purity, harmony and tranquility. You enter the tea room and sit on the tatami in seiza position where you bend your legs and sit on them, with your feet crossed under your bottom.
As tatami is made of great, comfortable material, it makes sitting in this position easier.
The History Of The Tatami Mat
The use of tatami dates back as far as the Heian period (794-1185) when piles of straw became thicker and thicker and people used this to make resting on the floor more comfortable. It wasn’t until the Muromachi period (1338-1573) that all rooms were floored with tatami mats. However tatami was really only used by the wealthy in their study rooms until it became more customary amongst commoners to use tatami in their sleeping areas.
Today most houses have home tatami and get this… you can even find a Starbucks in Kyoto with tatami! Tatami were traditionally woven from rice straw and could be folded and stacked giving it its name, tatami (tatamu means to fold and tatami comes from the word tatamu).
Tatami As A Yoga Mat
Yoga is a well known and popular exercise and for many reasons;
it’s known to improve flexibility and strength as it stretches your muscles. It helps create a beautiful posture as the muscles in your stomach and back become stronger, which also reduces back pain. Not only is it great physically, but mentally too as it eases stress and anxiety. Yoga involves breathing exercises that make you focus on your breath and nothing else so it is also a type of meditation to help melt away the day’s stresses. Yoga also improves sleep so if it’s a good night’s sleep you’ve been craving, perhaps it’s time to give yoga a try?
And to make your yoga experience even more soul-cleansing, why not combine the contemplative past time with tatami to really tap into mindfulness. But to have the luxury of tatami at home surely you’d have to go to so much trouble? You’d have to rip up your carpet and pay so much to import the ‘real deal’ right? Wrong! With a tatami yoga mat you can happily enjoy yoga AND tatami without the hassle of importing large mats, large costs and large hassle.
“The tatami yoga mats are perfect for anyone who wants to stand out in yoga class, or even just ensure that their mat has less of an impact on the natural environment” – Japan Goods Finder
Exquisite Tatami Yoga Mat Made In Japan
These tatami yoga mats are proudly certified by yoga instructors in Japan. They are made from Japanese Igusa (also known as rushes) that have a beautiful thick skin, fine fibers, superior elasticity and excellent durability making it worth every penny. What are rushes?
They’re a plant that have very smooth, long, cylindrical stalks with hairless stem-like leaves. The rushes used to create these tatami yoga mats are from Kyushu in Japan so you know that these mats are definitely made in Japan. The rushes have been treated with Aomori Hiba (a type of cypress tree) to ensure an antibacterial and deodorized effect. Igusa has a refreshing and healing grassy smell that makes you feel lifted and relaxed.
Igusa not only smells fantastic but it also has many great qualities that make it the perfect material for mats – air purification, regulates humidity, heat insulation, elasticity, cooling, eco-friendly AND sound absorbing on top of being smooth to the touch. Not only is it great as a yoga mat but also makes a great space to sit or lie and relax. Make a cup of tea and contemplate or meditate or just play on your phone; all whilst enjoying Japanese tatami in your own home.
“An earthy fragrance that delights your senses” - Bedlyft
The back of the mat is made of PVC rubber so you won’t be slipping and sliding about the gaff when you’re attempting your down dog or one legged king pigeon pose! It also ensures adequate cushioning so no pain whilst working out. Zak Zakka has four beautiful and unique designs to choose from including plain (green), earth navy, joy (which looks like a beautiful sunset) and my personal favourite; sakura Fuji which are cherry blossoms against a background of Mount Fuji… you can’t get anymore Japanese than that!
Feel, touch and experience the nature and culture of Japan in your own home with a tatami yoga mat. If you close your eyes and take a deep inhale, with the fresh scent of Igusa you can imagine you’re sitting in a tea room in Kyoto. You’re guaranteed to receive plenty of compliments on your special mat if you use your mat at the gym, and you yourself will smile with delight with every use as you workout on top of your favourite design. Your ticket to complete relaxed awareness and mindfulness is just a click away; Zak Zakka is ready and waiting for your order of the non-slip tatami yoga mat.