All about tatami mats

04 Oct 2017 in So Design

Every Japanophile is familiar with tatami mats. But do you know how they’re made? And did you know they start off green?


Tatami mats are perhaps the quintessential element of Japanese interior décor. You’ll find them lining the floor of most traditional Japanese building, including temples and ryokans.

Ryokan tatami

At HOSHINOYA Tokyo, tatami mats even line the floor of the elevator!

Japanese tatami

And, while tatami is now less common in homes, many people still have a single tatami room, known as the washitsu (Japanese-style room).


Making tatami is a time-consuming business. Historically, woven rushes are wrapped around and sewn to a rice straw core. But today, many tatami-makers use a core of compressed wood chips or polystyrene foam.

Why? To avoid the bugs that rice straw can attract.

A single tatami mat usually measures just under 1 metre x 2 metres – although regional variations exist – and contains thousands of rushes. As a finishing touch, the edge of the mat is covered with a decorative brocade.

Japanese interior design

You may be surprised to learn that tatami mats start off green in colour. The more familiar yellow comes with aging. After a few years, the mats are flipped over to offer them new life – and usually need fully replacing within ten years.

Thanks to their natural firmness and springiness, Japanese people traditionally make their beds on tatami, rolling out a thin mattress (a futon) on top of them each night.

You can test the experience for yourself at Hoshino Resorts KAI Atami.

Hoshino Resorts KAi Atami

Japanese ryokan

One last word of advice: don’t forget to take your shoes off! Even slippers are a no-no on tatami mats!



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