Why Tatami?

Tatami mats offer distinct advantages that include:

Environmentally Safe & Sustainable

Tatami mats are made with all natural vegetable plant by-products. The wara or rice straws are the remaining rice reeds after the rice grain has been harvested and stripped. They are bound and stitched together by cotton strings and the bottom is covered with paper. No trees are cut down to manufacture a tatami mat except perhaps for the paper underlay. Simply put, it takes on average about 80 years for oak or maple trees to mature before they are ready to be processed for flooring, while it takes only one season to grow a rice paddy field to grow food and manufacture the tatami mats with.  Sustainability issues for trees can become very significant.   While hardwood flooring may withstand significant wear and tear compared to the tatami mat covering, it is usual in Japan to reuse the internal straw padding by changing their covering once every 15-20 years. The straw padding may last for 30 years or more and has no added chemicals when discarded back into the earth.

A note on Vinyl Flooring, Wood Laminates and Adhesives

Tatami mats manufactured today are made the same way as they have been for hundreds of years - stitching.  When placed inside a home, all a homeowner or interior decorator does is place it on the subfloor.  With vinyl flooring, glue plays a significant role and it is important to note that most adhesives emit dangerous gases because they contain plastic resins.  While respective governments may issue minimum safety emissions standards, these standards are NOT uniform and residents living in homes with significant industrial strength adhesives will be exposed to potential health hazards.

Laminate flooring is essentially several layers of decorative paper [high resolution photographic image of natural wood flooring] impregnated with special resins pressed together under intense pressure to form a highly wear resistant composite material. Most consists of a moisture resistant layer under a layer of HDF (high density fiberboard). High density fiberboard, HDF, is basically a high-density, moisture-resistant fiber panel made of wood residues (sawdust, shavings and wood chips) from wood processing factories. This ligneous material is grounded into a pulp to which a melamine-urea-formaldehyde resin is added. This pulp is then dried and pressed into panels.  Installing vinyl flooring onto a floating floor system usually requires more adhesives.

Tatami mats are natural flooring solutions that avoids adhesives and other necessary engineered chemicals.  Tatami Imports Inc. believes that traditional Japanese tatami mats are not only better, it is safer and healthier.

Ease of installation?

They are easy to lay down unlike hardwood flooring and require much less planning and skill to do so. As rooms in North America are not based on the tatami measure, what may require planning is if the tatami layout left an unlaid corridor around the room. In that case, you may wish to fill the corridor with hardwood or place 5.5 cm high quarter-round trim along the corridor. Once laid down, the mats can be easily reconfigured if necessary to give a different look, which cannot be done with most other flooring. There are no nails to puncture the subfloor, and no glue fumes such as from vinyl tiles. If the subfloor is well installed, the lack of hardwood floor nails means no squeaky floors.

Safety and Use

Tatami mats are used in many martial art dojos in Japan where students practice breakfalls and body throws onto them. Unlike any other flooring, you won't suffer even a bruise when thrown onto a tatami mat. Active children and baby rooms are perfect settings for tatami mats. There is no extra expense for exercise mats. Your tatami room is also your yoga and meditation room.

Sound-proofing flooring

With 5.5 cm thick bundles of tightly bound wara (rice straws), the trapped air within acts as sound absorbers.

Room humidity regulator

Classified as a vegetable by-product, these mats are able to absorb moisture in the room on damp and humid days and release excess moisture when days are dry, acting as a temperature regulator.

Choice and selection

Just as there are many choices within other flooring alternatives, tatamis are not restricted to the green rush mat commonly found in many older Japanese homes. With the innovation of specialized Japanese paper, more and more new covering designs are being introduced each year.

Tatami Imports takes great pride in introducing tatami mats to North America. We believe its time has arrived as concern for the environment increase and people seek a more simple and healthy lifestyle within the home.

Living with tatamis

The ideal settings for a tatami room are children's bedrooms or minimalist rooms with little or no furniture. They are not recommended for moist basement floors to avoid risk of moulding. Generally, the Japanese do not wear shoes on tatami flooring because they cause more wear and tear than bare feet or feet with socks on. For hygiene reasons, shoes that are worn outside the house are never worn inside the house where bare feet treads on.

Tatami rooms are generally very minimalist, but most living rooms with tatamis in Japan do contain at least a kotatsu and za-isu which is a low table with heating underneath and seats without legs, respectively. Since it is not customary for most North Americans (excepting most Asians) to sit on floors, leg bases may be a good protection for the tatami mats as the pressure from small legs may cause permanent depressions and even tear the covering.

While it may appear a bit hard for some, many Japanese people do sleep on tatami floors. All you would really need to be comfortable is a good pillow.