Tatami mats were once considered a luxury item in Japanese households. More recently they have become popular additions to both Japanese and Western homes. They look beautiful and are super comfortable to sleep on!
What are Tatami mats made of?
Tatami mats consist of three distinct parts. Two outer layers sandwich the filling in the middle and the entire mat is then bound together by cloth that is wrapped around the edges.
The tatami-omote is the surface of the mat. It is made from dried Japanese rush grass, or rice straw that is woven together. Hemp or cotton yarn is used to keep the rush from separating. Tatami-doko refers to the inside or filling of the mat. Traditionally this was made of compressed rice straw. In some modern mats this has been replaced by wood chips or polystyrene foam. Tatami-fuchi is the cloth that is wrapped around the edges of the tatami mat. This cloth holds the layers of the mat together and covers the woven ends of the rush. Learn more about tatami mat materials here.
Sleeping on a Tatami mat
Tatami mats are made from natural materials and provide adequate padding and comfort to sleep on. In Japan, many people choose to sleep on Tatami mats simply placed on the floor.
Sleeping on a Tatami mat on the floor could help reduce back pain and realign your body’s natural posture. While a tatami mat placed on the floor provides for plenty of padding for a good night’s rest, it is firm enough not to mold around your body. This helps to keep your spine aligned. You can even add a buckwheat hull pillow to help your spine hold it’s natural curvature while you sleep.
Because your body is now in a more natural position, you will get better rest. No more tossing and turning to get comfortable. Yes, it might feel a bit odd at first, but that is just because your body isn’t used to it – even if this is a more natural position for you to sleep in. Sleeping on a tatami mat, like a buckwheat hull pillow, allows your body heat to escape so that you don’t overheat, allowing you a peaceful night’s sleep.
If sleeping on the floor is not your thing, you can place a few tatami mats on a wooden base and top it off with a foam pad and Japanese futon (shikibuton/ shikifuton). Learn more about building your Japanese sleep system here.
How to clean your tatami mat
Tatami mats don’t like humidity as the rush could become moldy. You can use a dry cloth or mop to clean your tatami mat. Use strokes that follow the length of the rush instead of moving across them to avoid bending the rush and potentially breaking and pulling them out from the threads that hold them together.
Tatami mats are made from natural material that are both friendly to you and the environment. They are comfortable and cool to sleep on and help you get a good night’s rest. Sleeping on a tatami mat can help ease back pain by allowing your spine to return to its natural position while you sleep.