‘Tatami Rooms’ in Japan: An introduction

Tatami Rooms in Japan are a deep part of the elegant Japanese culture. If you love Japanese content, you will find this aesthetic interior design featured in multiple Japanese anime, music videos, manga, and dramas. Let’s find out more about the ‘Tatami Rooms’ culture in Japan.


A scene from the anime ‘Your Name’ with a beautiful Japanese Tatami Room setting

A little history of Tatami Rooms

brown wooden door

Known as a mark of aristocracy, tatami rooms in modern times act as study areas in temples and as living or sleeping areas in homes. Originally an indulgence that only the affluent class could afford, tatami designs retain their exclusivity in modern times. Today, it is treasured for its simplicity, tradition, and adaptability.

Japanese-style room or ‘tatami rooms’ is a part of Japanese interior design (和室; washitsu). The term tatami originates from the Japanese word “tatamu,” which means to fold. You can trace the use of tatami material far back to the 8th century Muromachi Period. The tatami material is woven from rice straws.  Originally these rooms were used as study rooms for the wealthy before gradually becoming more commonly used all over the house.

Tatami rooms also make wonderful living, meditative and yoga rooms. It is used as mats, sliding doors and walls. If you wish to significantly bring out the essence of Japanese art in your interior designs then Tatami space is the way to go!

Tatami floor mats

Tatami mats were referred to as a symbol of social status. It could be afforded by only the wealthy people to rest on, while common people used to sit on the bare floor. The mats are generally 910 mm by 1,820 mm in size. One could sit or sleep on to it to make resting on the floor more comfortable. Once not in use, the tatami mats have the benefit to be folded or stacked aside. This helps save space when not in use.


Tatami partitions (shouji)

Shouji partitions are commonly used as a window in a contemporary Tatami abode. These partitions are made up of wooden mesh covered in translucent paper. This gives you a sense of privacy but also allows for soft natural light to flow into the room. Installing a shouji partition in a room also reduces the cold as this partition has the ability to block wind flowing through the window. Specifically, in colder areas, the use of this element plays an important role.

silhouette of man near outside

Built-in Tatami closet (oshiire)

Oshiire is a small storage closet in the tatami room. You can mostly use this closet to store material as pillows, sheets, blankets, and futon. While more and more modern Japanese societies are using western-style beds, the utility of oshiire cannot be taken for granted. Apart from just storing items, this joined structure enables the room to be used for other purposes too. This frees the room from any unnecessary furniture when necessary.

Tatami Sliding Doors (fusuma)
brown wooden framed glass window

Fusuma are rectangular vertical doors that can be slid side to side. These doors are typically used between connecting rooms, acting as large removable walls. Once can even use this partition for privacy. Fusuma allows flexibility of space to be closed or opened up as needed. As Japanese homes tend to have a limited footprint, the adaptability of an area to be redefined is fully cherished by any occupant.

See Japanese tatami rooms by yourself!

You can see that a tatami room follows the Japanese design principle of simplicity. Just by using the Tatami bring the Japanese essence into any Western home. Today, traditional Japanese-style rooms are an integral part all around Japan.

Visitors and tourists have the opportunity to experience this in real through an overnight stay in a minshuku, ryokan, or a temple accommodation. On the other hand, you can view a variety of beautifully preserved historic tatami rooms at places such as temples, villas, and other tourist spots.

One thing is for sure, whatever aesthetic form Tatami is used in, a tatami room will remain a part of Japanese homes for a long while to come.

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