(originally meaning "folded and piled") mats are a traditional type of Japanese flooring. Made of woven soft rush straw, and traditionally packed with rice straw (though nowadays sometimes with styrofoam), tatami are made in individual mats of uniform size and shape, bordered by brocade or plain green cloth.
Tatami were originally a luxury item for the wealthy at a time when lower classes had mat-covered dirt floors. Tatami were gradually popularized and finally reached the homes of commoners towards the end of the 17th century.
Layout and sizeThere are various rules concerning the number and layout of tatami mats; an inauspicious layout is said to bring bad fortune. In homes, the mats must not be laid in a grid pattern, and in any layout there is never a point where the corners of three or four mats touch.
In Japan, the size of a room is typically measured by the number of tatami mats (-畳 -jō). The traditional dimensions of the mats were fixed at 90 cm by 180 cm (1.62 square meters) by 5 cm (35.5 in by 71 in by 2 in). Half mats, 90 cm by 90 cm (35.5 in by 35.5 in) are also made. Shops were traditionally designed to be 5½ mats (8.91m²), and tea rooms and tea houses are frequently 4½ mats (7.29m²). Because the size is fixed, rooms in traditional Japanese construction measure in multiples of 90 cm. Mats from Kyoto (Kyo-tatami) and other parts of western Japan are slightly larger than those from Tokyo and eastern Japan at 95.5 cm by 191 cm (1.82m²; 37.6 in by 75.2 in).
UseTatami mats are associated with Japanese religious rites and the tea ceremony. Most modern Japanese homes still have at least one tatami room, the washitsu.
Tatami "omote", or the outside rush mat layer, wrapped over the rice straw core of the mat, is used in the practice of tameshigiri in Japanese swordsmanship. The tatami omote mats are rolled into cylinders, soaked in water for several days, and then cut in order to test either a newly made sword's sharpness or a swordsman's skill.
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