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The decline of traditional Japanese tatami flooring

53 Comments
By Angelina Lucienne

If you imagine a Japanese room, chances are you think of something like the picture above: a simply furnished room with sliding "shoji" doors, a "tokonoma" with a hanging scroll, and a tatami mat floor. These are examples of the virtues of traditional Japan that many foreigners often hear extolled. When they occupy such an important part of Japanese identity, you wouldn’t think they would be in danger of disappearing anytime soon.

However, the demand for tatami mats has gone down by one third in the last 20 years and many artisans are worried the trade will soon be lost, as more and more of them find themselves rapidly aging with no successors to continue the business. Why is it that tatami floors are becoming rare now, after enduring for so long?

If you are not familiar with tatami mat floors, they are made of dried, woven rushes which are then wrapped around and sewn to a core. Traditionally the core consisted of rice straw, though now it is often synthetic material. The result is a floor that has a springy but firm texture, making it ideal for sitting and sleeping on.

They are easily scratched, gouged or stained, making them more difficult to care for than other types of floor. In addition, they need to be replaced relatively often. They are usually flipped over after a few years of use, but even gently used tatami mats will need replacements in under a decade. As you can see in the video below, producing tatami mats is very labor intensive, so they don’t come cheap.

So is it just a matter of price? Well, not quite. Masao Nakano, a tatami-maker in Kyoto, has been in business for over 20 years and has watched other tatami producers in the area close up shop one after another. One day he was carrying new mats to an apartment when he heard junior high school girls remarking that the mats smelled bad.

Nakano is not the only one who concluded that the culture is just changing. Kazuhiko Tanaka, head of the Agricultural Production and Distribution Department of Yatsushiro, Kumamoto (one of Japan’s top rush producers) pointed out that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would provide many opportunities for visitors to experience tatami mat floors as a part of Japanese hospitality. He suggested installing them in the Olympic village so that the athletes would be able to enjoy them.

Whether they can enjoy them or not may be contingent upon whether or not they find them smelly or not. A blogger at Hachima Kiko remarked, “I think rushes smell good. It’s sad that tatami mats are disappearing from Japanese homes.” They posted a poll simply asking whether their readers preferred "washitsu" (Japanese-style rooms with tatami mats) or "yoshitsu" (Western-style rooms with any other kind of floor). The results came back overwhelmingly in favor of Japanese-style rooms with 1,840 votes and only 797 for Western-style rooms.

There are undoubtedly inconveniences to having tatami mat floors, but they have an incredible amount of charm, and personally, I’ve always loved them. They have a distinct smell: sweet and strong but without being heavy. The heat and humidity of the summer brings it out a lot more, so the smell always reminds me of the summer I first moved to Japan. If it has that kind of effect on me, if must have an even greater one on people who have memories or summers at grandma’s house or taiko lessons at the community center. While tatami mats may be less common in homes than they used to, they will surely have a place in the hearts of many residents of Japan for a very long time to come.

Sources: Hachima Kiko, Yahoo! Japan News

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- LED tatami floors take us to the tea ceremony of the future -- Japanese customers are raving about a bath mat made from soil -- Japanese Man Crafts Dollhouses From Broken Acoustic Guitars

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53 Comments
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I love the smell of natural tatami. It's the general lack of culture and lack of proper education that causes all these changes in a society, and Japan is no stranger to it. Besides, that serene guest and tea room pictured here, sitting and doing nothing, is quite expressive and there are very few families that have it like this (and those that do, usually afford it).

8 ( +13 / -5 )

The typical plastic flooring in apartments is really gross. I never appreciated wall-to-wall carpeting until now. Tatami is great, but when one has actual furniture: desks, beds, chairs, the tatami can't help but be marked, so it is a conflict. No one I know has a room like that pictured above.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Tatami is a convenient and comfortable mat and I love it so it makes me sad to read about the decline of the tatami mat. Tatami has a great history in Japan and was used for bed or sitting mat by the nobility and gradually came to be used as a room mat. It eventually became an important part of the Japanese culture and was used in all houses in Japan. Tatami is great for your health to correct your backbone. It can also keep the temperature mild, purify the air, control moisture and absorb humidity therefore it is friendly to the human body and environment.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

No one I know can ever afford a room like the picture above at home. This is like showing a room in a rich aristocrat's or merchant's residence with a caption that claims as if it used to be a typical residential room in Europe.

10 ( +14 / -4 )

@Ebisen, before I opened the post I was going to say exactly your first sentence. If you learn to live without all those heavy and bulky things society makes believe that we need, tatamis bring an inner feeling of well being. If I made a house, I would definitely have a tatami room.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I love Tatami. Great and cool on your feet in the Summer and very comfortable and mild during the winter, factor in the nice natural smell, I wish, our nice NEW apartment had a tatami mat.

@Nove

I totally agree

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Five of the rooms in our house are like the one in the photo, the others were changed to wood or vinyl covering. While its very nice having tatami mats they do need much more time and care to keep them looking good which is probably why less homes still have them. Our tatami mats are a previous size making them about a third larger than the ones in use today but that makes them very heavy and we can no longer lift them up to take outside for airing. On a hot day its very nice to lie down on the tatami mats.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

Seems every time I go into a new Japanese house, they have a small tatami room they NEVER use. This country is too limited in space for that sort of nonsense.

I think its natural for people to prefer to fill such a void with real furniture and enjoy what space is left. I hate sitting on the floor. It cuts off circulation. Putting away and taking out a futon every single day is a hassle and sure eats up a lot of closet space. Much nicer to just have a bed. You can store stuff under it. I actually build a rooved four poster bed so I can store stuff over it too. Much more space efficient and far less hassle.

0 ( +9 / -9 )

A tatami room is looks beautiful, smells wonderful and is a joy to spend time in.

Just not in my own home...

5 ( +10 / -5 )

When we built our home, we included a small tatami room. We use it as our sleeping room and I have found the tatami to be very conducive to a good night's sleep. The natural fragrance, especially in the hot and humid summer, helps to soothe the mind and body.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

After a year or two, the tatami tics start appearing. That is what the bits and swellings on your legs and arms are. After the tics get into your futon, it is all over. Itch, itch, itch, all night long.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

The natural fragrance, especially in the hot and humid summer, helps to soothe the mind and body.

Placebo effect. I have no love for tatami and it does nothing for me.

-3 ( +8 / -11 )

They posted a poll simply asking whether their readers preferred washitsu or yoshitsu. The results came back overwhelmingly in favor of Japanese-style rooms with 1,840 votes and only 797 for Western-style rooms.

These kind of polls always make me chuckle.

It's like the poll for Mac vs Mos... Japanese people give the answer they think they should give... namely, the answer that supports team Japan.

But in reality, their behavior is very different.

You can bet 90% of these people would choose a mansion with flooring and a sofa...

16 ( +23 / -7 )

Tatami used to be taken outside, lined up, beaten and dried in the sun once a year. That dealt with the mites.

Nowadays few people bother to follow the old lifestyle.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I wish I can have one tatami room even if I move overseas. Not all rooms, but just one special room.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Japanese people give the answer they think they should give... namely, the answer that supports team Japan. You can bet 90% of these people would choose a mansion with flooring and a sofa...

Okay, that made me giggle. It's like the question I put to my students, "which do you prefer, Japanese or western cuisine?" The answers are predictable. Then I ask them "how many of you had a full Japanese breakfast this morning?" Out of a class of twenty, only one hand will go up at most.

I dislike tatami, because of the insects they attract and also those splinters that you get from the nasty cheap ones. The smell makes me retch. I moved into a no-tatami apartment, and what a relief.

-2 ( +6 / -8 )

Great room for nostalgia, put a new carpet down and great for actual use. Like chairs, knife and folks, glass windows...get over it and move past the past high maintenance stinks after a year time tatami is now consigned to nostalgia.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

yaa, maintenance and busy life are the two factors for decline

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Before the beginning of summer the mats need to be injected with spray to kill the mites and other insects, don't take long to do. Also at least once a week they need wiping with a clean damp towel to stop them from drying out.

Tatami mats are high maintenance but in my opinion worth the effort. We love living in a traditional style house and since I spent the first half of my life in a western one I'm good with that and they work better in the climate. Organic houses which live and breathe?

We have more space, more area, more ceiling height, more storage, more garden than whats now available from new homes. The cost of the rent is less than a one room apartment in Tokyo.

The house moves and rocks a little but it withstood the Kobe earthquake when many properties near by collapsed including newer one. Its almost 100 years old but the main timbers are like 12-24 inch thick.

12 ( +16 / -4 )

A tatami room is great to use as a playroom if you have small kids. It's easier for babies to crawl on tatami rather than smooth, slippery flooring. Plus, if they fall and hit their head, there is considerably less damage and pain. When we bought our condo, we specifically looked for one with a tatami room.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The fact that they need to be regularly injected with chemical insecticide kind of detracts from their "natural" image.

Also, I think many parents would hesitate to allow their tiny kids to play on a tatami mat full of insecticide...

0 ( +9 / -9 )

I like the smell of natural tatami and the contrast it offers in the home. I would have them in my house but I got overruled by the Boss.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

choiwaruoyaji

The fact that they need to be regularly injected with chemical insecticide kind of detracts from their "natural" image. Also, I think many parents would hesitate to allow their tiny kids to play on a tatami mat full of insecticide...

Human beings shred vast amounts of skin and hair, as do pets if you keep them. All floor surfaces, regardless of the type are covered with the stuff which in turn attract billions of dust mites and a whole range of microbes which research has shown are not totally removed by vacuum cleaners or normal cleaning.

Beds and futons are another place which attract mites and microbes so they require regular maintenance like turning and cleaning or with futons, placed outside in the hot sun and beaten, which can be therapeutic in itself.

There are many surfaces even outside of the toilet areas which are covered with deadly microbes and need daily cleaning.

Living in climates like the one experienced here in Japan brings its own set of problems like when it hot, wet and humid, deadly mold spores can form and if they enter the lungs can cause major health problems. Rooms and other spaces need to have the windows opened and aired. Most of these directives actually work better in a traditional house than a western style one.

For most people, at least with some sort of regular cleaning the billions of dust mites and microbes don't cause problems except for those who suffer from allergies or skin and chest problems in which case extreme measures will be required.

Whatever surfaces you have in the home they will require cleaning which often involves the use of chemicals including soaps to clean our hands. With chemicals we seek out and buy the organic types including washing up liquids, washing soaps for the laundry and for our own personal hygiene. They all work very well.

Any family with very young children should always consider what chemicals are used in the home and are kept in a place of safe storage.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

All rooms of our place are tatami, except the kitchen/dining room, bathroom and toilet (for the obvious reasons).

We air our rooms and that's it. No bugs ever, here or anywhere I've lived that has tatami. Futons get moved around because if you leave them on the floor, the mats will get mouldy. A de-humidifier is good too.

Personally I get much better sleep on a tatami. Living in a Japanese-style house in Japan, how very surprising, but I'm glad I do. If I was well off, I'd like a house in the country with a kayabuke roof and irori, and a apartment closer to town, preferably with a tatami room or two.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Whatever surfaces you have in the home they will require cleaning which often involves the use of chemicals including soaps to clean our hands.

I do see your point, but I don't spend hours and hours a day sitting, playing, or lying directly on most other chemically laden surfaces, and I doubt most small children do, either. (Obviously in carpeted homes people usually sit on chairs or sofas.)

I had a student who was a retired architect, and he regarded tatami as being so dirty and insect-infested that he refused to have it in his own home.

I've thought of one good thing about tatami, though. Walking on it is much quieter than on hardwood floors, so you don't need to worry so much about the downstairs neighbours.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

If you're renting, Tatami floors are just another thing the landlord will make you pay for when you move out.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

Yes, you'll have to fork out for tatami and shoji. Don't get me started on shoji! A friend brought her toddler over one day, he poked holes in my newly papered shoji doors, and left sticky handprints on the fusuma. He also managed to dislodge one of the doors so that it popped out of its frame, fell over and damaged some crockery (also brand new). How people survive unscathed in homes with both children and shoji, is a mystery to me. Tatami and shoji are not very family-friendly at all. New parents would be better off opting for tougher western-style flooring and proper wall and doors.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

I lifted up the Tatami in my government housing last October and there were literally hundreds of stink bugs just nesting everywhere. Tatami is nice, but it is asking for nasty bugs - especially if it is government housing.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Tatami is nice, but it is asking for nasty bugs - especially if it is government housing.

I hear this story time and time again, and I can tell you that it's not only government housing, it's equally common in private sector housing too. How people can sleep peacefully with all those nasty bugs running around underfoot is beyond me! And that's not counting the cockroaches that run around your futon at night.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

I live in Aomori and we can only really enjoy 'airing out' tatami weather from May until September. However the good thing about Aomori is no cockroaches. That said, the bad thing about Aomori- millions of nasty stink bugs. I used to not notice the smell (I thought it was nature). But now it ruins everything immediately. And those things. Once they get in your house in the fall, they hide in your clothes and stuff throughout the winter. But they mostly like hiding under the tatami. I told my Board of Education about the problem and they gave me 4 rolls of masking tape and asked me to deal with it myself. I don7't know why the heck Im paying so much for juminzei with this service.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

"They posted a poll simply asking whether their readers preferred washitsu or yoshitsu. The results came back overwhelmingly in favor of Japanese-style rooms with 1,840 votes and only 797 for Western-style rooms."

Where did this poll come from? I searched in Japanese and could not find any. I read the original yahoo news but there were no such number. which is probably here http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20140517-00000565-san-cul

Instead I found the opposite result here http://earthtime-club.jp/enquete/045/ and here http://news.mynavi.jp/news/2013/04/22/206/ This poll says out of 500 people 82% preferred yoshitu. I think this poll is much more reliable than the one in the article. Tatami sellers give these numbers like this but I am doubting they are manipulating polls. And I personally prefer yoshitu too, it requires less maintenance, but I like the smell of tatami.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I love the smell of the newly installed tatami. i wish it will never disappear in my lifetime..

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I searched for more and found out the poll in the article hachima kiko, here http://blog.esuteru.com/archives/7684312.html and I found out similar result but different poll here http://wa.chobirich.com/official/vote/160 but again I found different poll that shows yoshitu is preferred more here http://antenna.tweepie.jp/?q_id=841

The second link has the largest number of votes. But the third one gives details of what kind of people prefer which. According to this source, both male and female prefer yoshitsu but female tend to prefer yoshitsu more. Young people tend to prefer yoshitu but people older than 60 prefer washitu(but only 30 old people answered question out of 999 people total). It's strange what is causing difference among those polls, maybe the way they ask questions? The first one is asked which do you like, the second is asked which is more relaxing, the third is asked which do you want to live.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

A decline of a third in 20 years sounds more like a simple sign of the declining population and waning fortunes of Japan than a change in attitudes if you ask me. In think since the 60s 90% of Japanese have generally moved towards wanting Western style mansions "but" with one or two Japanese style rooms usually a high maintenance common room.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

With chemicals we seek out and buy the organic types

OK.. cool... you found an organic insecticide for the tatami mats?

Please let me know the brand.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The choice is pure taste. The hygiene, cost and durability are not issues particular to tatami. In the rooms where a family spends lots of the time, if you want it to look good, you redo the decoration every 5 yrs or so anyway, and you end up paying just as much as for changing tatami. The "there were bug nests under..." stories are just as common in Western houses with other types of floorings, that's not better to find green-red-purple fungi under a flooring that trapped humidity. Unless you have tiles or stones, which are hard, cold, radioactive and can get ugly scratches. The anti-dirty super materials are often toxic. There is no perfect flooring.

If you're renting, Tatami floors are just another thing the landlord will make you pay for when you move out.

As you move in. Otherwise, he'll make you pay for the flooring, carpet, scrubbing+waxing of wood flooring, refreshing of tile joints... Most landlords are partner with a house revamping business, they need to work.

I think its natural for people to prefer to fill such a void with real furniture and enjoy what space is left. I hate sitting on the floor. It cuts off circulation.

Natural for fashion victims that can't resist the call of marketing on a weekly basis and fill their houses with useless crap, and useless crap containers (AKA 80% of furniture). Actually, the hipsters are now going back to mininalism. I hate sitting on chairs, it cuts off circulation (and there is medical evidence).

After a year or two, the tatami tics start appearing.

Like you can get bed bugs in a yoshitsu and it's easier to clean a tatami in any coin laundry than an infested bed (even expensive bug extermination specialist don't want to bother with beds). They are getting epidemic now.

OK.. cool... you found an organic insecticide for the tatami mats? Please let me know the brand.

Hinoki. The frame and all the room's closets should be made of it. It's expensive, but then you're good for 60 years. Then move into a rojin home. I never vacuumed the tatami (to spray the dust into the air I breath, no thanks), just cleaned with micro-fiber. Once in a while spray baking soda, spritz mist. For gokiburi, all your building (so neighbors have to help) should put housu balls and renew 4 times a year (in every room, in entrances, even some outside).

This poll says out of 500 people 82% preferred yoshitu.

That means what ? The question can't simply be "you prefer yoshitsu or tatami" ? That has to be: "Do you want at least one washitsu in your house or not ?". Or asking the choice for a bedroom, for a dining room, etc.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Choiwaruoyaji

I make my own as well as paste for insects like cockroaches. I also make it for pests in the garden. All from basic traditional recipes which have been used for hundreds of years. Cheap, effective and safe.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

cos

The poll in this article surprised me because most of the new houses built in Japan are western style houses and many of them don't even have a washitsu. And I found different polls with different results on the web, which puzzled me again.

But I realized they can be explained that when people are asked simply which room is more relaxing to spend time with(putting aside maintenance and cleaning), they tend to answer washitsu. But when they are asked in which room do you actually want to live(considering cleaning and so on), they tend to answer yoshitsu. I can understand this explanation more. I could not find poll asking "Do you want a washitsu in your house or no?"on the web. The result might change a little bit as you say, in favor or washitsu.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I was skeptical at first, but I've become quite enamored with tatami flooring.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A poll where people voted with their wallets: when we were buying our house, nearly every house on the estate was subject to a lottery because there were more people wanting to buy than there were houses. The only houses with no lottery (well technically there was a lottery, but only one applicant each) were those like ours with no tatami room upstairs. We didn't want to sleep on the floor, so that was what we wanted; but most folk wanted to sleep on tatami.

when people are asked simply which room is more relaxing to spend time with(putting aside maintenance and cleaning), they tend to answer washitsu. But when they are asked in which room do you actually want to live(considering cleaning and so on), they tend to answer yoshitsu.

Yoshitsu is the living room, washitsu the bedroom.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

My wife (Japanese) insisted that we have a tatami room when we bought our house. It was nice and all. I do like tatami. But it has turned into bookshelf, toy, and exercise room.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Cleo

"most folk wanted to sleep on tatami." You might be right when I look at poll here I found now http://www.sumaito.com/community/result/back/05/theme01.html This shows more than 60% of people wanted at least one washitu in their new houses (but the poll was taken in 2001, more than decade ago).

But when I search newly built houses in Tokyo, It seems to me less than half of them have washitsu(out of 854 in tokyo, only 276 have washitsu at website of home's). That is strange. Maybe some people want to sleep on washitsu as you say, but they can buy tatami carpet that you can just put on yoshitsu, at DIY center, so they don't have to have original washitsu in new house.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It's not a decline of culture, as much as it is an increase of available technology. More durable, cheaper, easier floors can be made. You have to be more careful when walking on, or around tatami. It's not built to be an everyday room, used for everyday life. I'm not an experienced person, but I'm sure it costs more to purchase, and to maintain as well.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

But when I search newly built houses in Tokyo, It seems to me less than half of them have washitsu(out of 854 in tokyo, only 276 have washitsu at website of home's).

today i took a stroll around all my local real estate agencies, and checked out their offerings in the windows. Most of the homes on offer were family-sized apartments. About 80% of them had exactly one tatami room - usually quite a bit smaller than the other rooms - and 10% had more than one tatami room, mainly older apartments, and the remaining 10% had no tatami at all. I live in Kansai, so it's probably a bit behind the times compared to Tokyo, but it's clear to me that tatami as a lifestyle choice is dying out. I for one won't be too sorry.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Tessa

I checked some more at home's because I couldn't do much in the morning. And I narrowed numbers down to houses that can be moved in immediately(即入居可)because then those houses will have arrangement of houses already decided. The numbers that I got is probably more precise than the one I gave in the previous comment. I checked not only Tokyo but Kanagawa Saitama Chiba. And I am also limiting searches to newly built ones, not old ones being sold again, and not including apartments, only detached ones are counted.

The result I got shows that in Tokyo 77 out of 166 houses had washitsu, which is less than half(46%. And if you limit to 23 districts it goes as low as about 30%). But in other areas, Kangawa got 62% of houses with washitsu, Saitama pref with 64%(but if you limit to saitama city it was 47%), Chiba with 72. I checked places like Nagoya and it was also more than 60%. Adding Tokyo, Chiba, kanagawa, saitama gave result of about 60%. Urban areas tend to have less washitsu, but I don't know the reason, is it because of availability of space, or because people think differently in urban areas.

But overall, this seems suggest that more than half of people actually want washitsu in their house. Which is kind of surprising to me.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Tatami is A-OK if I have to endure it a few nights per year at a ryokan. At home, no thanks. Difficult to maintain, smells like grass... Mendokusee... Living room tatami here at home is all messed up, much of it cover withh gaffers tape...

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

But overall, this seems suggest that more than half of people actually want washitsu in their house. Which is kind of surprising to me.

I do think that many Japanese have a sentimental attachment to washitsu, perhaps because as children they shared family meals sitting at a low table, or napped under the kotatsu, or because they still watch Showa-era movies that are set in Japanese-style homes (heck, even I feel nostagic when I watch those). But in this aging society, washitsu is becoming really very impractical to deal with, especially for elderly people. One of my students, who is caring for her senile and incontinent in-laws, demanded that her home be renovated to western-style rooms because (I'm sorry) it's so much easier to clean faeces and urine from flooring than from tatami! I think eventually tatami will go the way of the public bath. People will be happy to occasionally pay the for experience of using them, at upscale resorts for example, but they won't want to actually live with them on a daily basis. Tatami will get fancier? It will be interesting to see...

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

I've loved tatami flooring since day one and even years later, I will always make sure my home has it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

" I think eventually tatami will go the way of the public bath.People will be happy to occasionally pay the for experience of using them, at upscale resorts for example, but they won't want to actually live with them on a daily basis"

One way they might survive is okidatami, tatami mattress that can be just placed on wooden flooring, which is probably easier to handle than usual tatami and they don't need washitsu. But I don't know, I agree with you tatami might gradually decrease in numbers.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Why is it that tatami floors are becoming rare now, after enduring for so long?

When my daughter and her husband contracted a builder, established company Sek--- Housing to build their home the company advised against using real tatami so now they have 'artificial', (to me) strange size, hard tatami. Why? One reason given was that traditional tatami require more maintenance than fake flooring. Seriously. In my current dwelling of 150 m sq two rooms are tatami which have never been changed since the house was built in 1980. Never any problems with ticks or other kinds of vermin. Just proper sub floor ventilation. Prior to living in this house I'd spent more than 10 years living in low cost rented (small) houses where all the rooms were tatami, except the dining kitchen. It was a great experience that prompted me to do research in tatami production and visited tatami makers to interview them and photograph and document their work. These people were extremely helpful and frank in showing their skills. They may be out of business now. It is a shame that housing corporations discourage the use of authentic tatami because it is inconvenient to them, not the home buyers.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

We didn't want to sleep on the floor, so that was what we wanted; but most folk wanted to sleep on tatami.

Yeah ? I would say that in Kansai most people have/want a yoshitsu for bedroom as they have beds (even beds with futons) and closets/dressing rooms to hang cloths, and at the limit if it's tatami, they still put a carpet and a bed on it, so that doesn't matter much. But most like having a washitsu opening on the main big living room. They don't give it a special use, it can either extend living room space and kids play there, when they have too many guests for the high table (and that often starts for over 6 persons) or for the sofas (that may be only for 4 persons), for cha no yu and such, as occasional guest room.... or yes, as many have no social life, no guests, no kids, no hobbies beside shopping, it often turns into a warehouse to store stuff when their closets are too full, but nobody will admit it. Also as people age, they want to keep an altar for their dead relatives and they prefer a washitsu. Actually, if people have large houses feel less the need as they can have a large dedicated dining-room, multiple sofas, even suites for guests... so further in the suburbs, you see less washitsu. But the trend is people are deserting the new towns and going back into city centers.

One way they might survive is okidatami, tatami mattress that can be just placed on wooden flooring, which is probably easier to handle than usual tatami and they don't need washitsu.

No, that's not the mat that people would miss the most, but the concept of a room/space that can transformed in a few minutes.

Kansai, so it's probably a bit behind the times compared to Tokyo,

Or in advance. In the 90's, they build most mansions and houses without any washitsu, and that was the main complain, beside the lack of separated toilets. People found that if the house was not designed for it in the first place, installing a washitsu later was very complicated and expensive. I know people that ending up selling their flat for that reason. So now the design including a washitsu is coming back even in the most high tech high rise mansion. From what I understood from chirashis for new mansions, when you buy the new flat, you may pick yoshitsu style flooring and walls and you don't install the sliding doors, but the frame is made for them, so you can change your mind.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Cos

I think you are right that washitsu is not only for bedroom, but can be used for various ways. The poll I linked before says more than 30% people use it as bedroom or private room, and28~29% use it as guest room. They can just relax in it, lying down on it to rest. But is it really that larger houses tend to have less washitsu? suburbs tend to have more washitsu than at urban areas, when I checked at home's.

"No, that's not the mat that people would miss the most, but the concept of a room/space that can transformed in a few minutes."

At least I think okidatamis have increased as washitsu decreased in numbers(that means as yoshitsu increased), but I don't know, you maybe right they might eventually disappear with washitsu.

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Even those who still have tatami cover them with some kind of protection to avoid wear, thus losing all advantages of having tatami...

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