Teach me about Japanese tatami floor mats.

Tatami smells good !!!

Tatami is a very traditional floor mat, which is a symbolic item indispensable for a Japanese style room; so called "Wa-shitsu", and is also considered as an official cultural gadget necessarily used in such Japanese architectures as temples, and tea rooms besides "Wa-shitsu". For example, when you are with your families and you want to rent rooms in an apartment in Japan, your real estate consultant will probably offer you, say, a 2LDK apartment; the one with 2 rooms and a living dining kitchen, then you will find, in most of the cases in Japan, that either of the 2 rooms is likely to be of "Wa-shitsu" room, with which the floor is neatly, precisely and collectively covered with several pieces of tatami floor mat.
Tatami floor mat is generally made of, and plaited with "Igusa", or a soft rush plant. The most characteristic feature about this green floor mat, which I guess you can easily tell, is the smell of "Igusa"; very particular smell it gives out especially when it's fresh, and newly installed in a room. It might be quite hard to express something you can only perceive by actually smelling it in a written format, though, when you put it in a simple way, it is very grassy, greenish, or even herbal in a good sense, which I like a lot while some people, even Japanese might not be comfortable with the scent. So, I'd just recommend, if you have not, you will just give it a try, and see how it goes with you. Hoping you like it ;-) I heard the scent it sends out is technically volatile; the fresher, and the newer a tatami floor mat is, the more fragrant, and the stronger it actually smells.
A sheet of tatmi floor is rectangle shaped. It has longer side and shorter side, and the proportion of the longer to the shorter is fixed as 2 to 1. What is quite interesting about a tatami floor mat is the size difference depending on the regions it comes from; Tatami floor mat in the Western part of Japan, which is called "Kyo-ma", or Kyoto size; is a slightly bigger than the one from the East, called "Kanto-ma", Kanto size. It is because the Japanese traditional measurement unit size for length is different between the East and the West, which ia said to have been defined and fixed about more than 400 years ago. There is yet another tatami floor mat available, which is not rectangle but square shaped, and is relatively smaller in size with shorter plait pitches for it. This is called "Ryukyu-tatami", or the Okinawa style tatami, and is getting popular among those young people willing to bring some Japanese tastes into their studio type rooms which they rent by putting Ryukyu tatami mats into place directly on the wooden flooring as you like so they can get simply relaxed on them; sitting, lying, or whatever you do on them.
One of a few manners you should follow regarding a "Tatami" floor mat, which, I reckon, even most of Japanese do not know very well about is stepping on the edge of a tatami floor mat, which is a special covering fabric attached along the longer side of it, is considered a bad manner. Therefore, if you have a chance, for instance, to get in a temple and walk on a tatami floor, or if you are invited to a tea serving ceremony performed in "Wa-shitsu", you should be careful in watching how Japanese behave, and how many of them will actually keep the manner in mind. Probably the result could be somewhat interesting, I guess!

by Masa