Sleeping on Tatami

Tatami Washitsu decoration doll fish

As my recent posts and tweets indicate, I have been in Taiwan for a few days now. I love it here. Seeing my family, enjoying the local delicacies, and sleeping on tatami have all been really lovely.

Tatami Galaxy ending texture

For as long as I can remember, I have slept on tatami mats whenever I am in Taiwan. When my parents modeled our home over a decade ago, my mother decided to install a washitsu instead of another “regular” bedroom. Complete with tatami flooring, sliding doors, and oriental decorations, this has been my bedroom as a child and now during my visits.

Tatami cloth lining

My recent fascination is subtle textures and patterns. From lacy lingerie to tiled flooring to various window bar designs, the mundane patterned textures can be so gorgeous. Therefore, when I moved into the washitsu on Thursday, I was captivated by the detailed straw strips, the decorative cloth lining, and the overall puzzled layouts of tatami.

Tatami Galaxy ending texture

In fact, arranging tatami mats is a rather layered exercise. Because of the fixed rectangular shape of the mats, the possible arrangements are numerous for each room and even more for an entire floor plan. Additionally, certain traditional rules (auspicious “T” arrangements and ominous grid patterns) complicate tatami fitting to create nearly infinite designs. Thus, tatami creates many alternate galaxies tied together by a few constants of shape and traditions. A visual representation of synchronicity.

Tatami Galaxy ending texture

Tatami arrangement is truly a mesmerizing art.


Kami-sama no Iu Toori by Etsuko Yakushimaru

Indeed, the beauty is exemplified by the ending sequence of The Tatami Galaxy/ Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei (四畳半神話大系). Perhaps one of my favorite sequences ever, it employs a variety of exquisite textures, pleasant retro pallete, and exciting animation to create a stunning experience. I absolutely love it.

Tatami Galaxy ending texture

Also, the ending song, in addition to Arakawa Under the Bridge OP and others, solidifies Etsuko Yakushimaru as one of my favorite Japanese singer.

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65 Responses to Sleeping on Tatami

  1. Swordwind says:

    Stunning.

    Of course, I’d have to say I prefer lacy lingerie to tiled flooring…

    • Radiant says:

      lol!
      I’d have to agree with that. But it also depends on who’s wearing it.🙂

    • Yi says:

      @Swordwind: I prefer lacy lingerie as well. ^ ^

      @Radiant: Very true!

      @lightningsabre: Haha, I don’t mean to offend, but a man in lacy lingerie is not something I particularly want to see. I wouldn’t mind thongs or leather, but I don’t think lace look good on men.

    • Swordwind says:

      Fair enough. That’s why I’m not a huge fan of generalizations. That being said, if I’ve reached the stage in which I’m examining someone’s panties (for example), I generally approve of the person who is wearing them.

      I think my sensibilities only allow for a more draconian stance on male underwear, Yi. Boxers & Briefs are OK, very little else is.

      • Yi says:

        @Swordwind: While I’m also not a fan of generalizations, it’s too nit-picky and inconvenient for me to always have to qualify my statements, so I do actually generalize quite often.

        As for male underwear, while I don’t mind the exotic kinds, I think I still prefer boxers and briefs too.

  2. Additionally, certain traditional rules (auspicious “T” arrangements and ominous grid patterns) complicate tatami fitting to create nearly infinite designs.

    I’m glad Japan and other Asian countries are constantly applying old traditions and going by the book. Although it may seem restricting, it allows them to be more creative with their projects. A lot of design principles also apply here. Having no set of rules and being too free can actually be very taxing for a designer. I guess the same applies to someone with no morals. Life can be unstable without a set of rules.

    Btw, love the doll decorations at the top :3

    • Yi says:

      @Jesus159159159: I agree completely from a design standpoint. More than once have I read and seen how restrictions breed innovation. Thanks for that insight!

      The doll decorations is part of my mother’s larger collection of various kind of dolls. I love them too.

  3. Shinra says:

    😄 When im at my grandma’s hse, we sleep on wooden floors… no tatami. but we have Futons n seldom use them.

    Really miss the “sleeping on floor, nature breeze n old chinese music frm radio” life…. T_T

  4. Michael says:

    I first heard of Etsuko Yakushimaru from the Arakawa OP. I really liked the song, so I searched for other works of hers, which led me to Souteiseiriron (Theory of Relativity). I loved most of its songs, and have a fondness for Jigoku Sensei. I only loved her more in Kamisama no Iutoori. She has a most dynamic voice.

    • Yi says:

      @Michael: For me, I discovered Souteiseiriron independent of anime. I was kind of just browsing around J-music, and they caught my eye. Since then, they’ve kind of become my pet love.
      Then I realized Etsuko Yakushimaru also did Arakawa OP and Tatami ED, both of which I instantly fell in love with.
      I really like the kind of light feel of her vocals and the catchy melodies and I’m glad you feel the same way.

  5. softz says:

    I tried tatami in Korea last year (that was our first time). It was pretty okay for me. However, my family didn’t like the experience.🙂

    • Yi says:

      @softz: For me, tatami’s kind of hard. I remember two years ago when I first visited Taiwan after leaving there for about ten years, I woke up feeling really sore and stiff because of the tatami mats. But now that I’m more used to them, they’re actually kind of nice.
      They’re supposed to be good for your back too.

  6. glothelegend says:

    I’ve always wanted these in my room. I’ve only had the good fortune to walk on them once in my life, when I visited a Japanese school near Manhattonville University in New York. God they were awesome. So comfortable, so cool looking. I just love the whole appearance of most Japanese/Simlar houses (the traditional way). That’s one of the reasons why I became obsessed with Japan in the first place. In fact, my current rug sort of looks like a tatami mat design (not really) and that’s why I went for it (it’s covered in ink, charcoal, and paint now and I need a new one).

    • Yi says:

      @glothelegend: I love Japanese styled interior design too! It’s so simple and elegant. Anyways, tatami mats are actually quite a pain to clean and wash, so if you regularly paint or make a mess, they might not be such a good idea.

      Anyways, as an aside, I didn’t realize this when I wrote this post, but I now appreciate more the influence Japan had on Taiwan, both because of history and proximity. It seems that washitsu were actually a very common and popular structure to have in many Taiwanese homes built around the 90s.
      I think it’d be incredibly cool and doable to integrate such a room in many houses or studios, and I hope to do so in the future.

  7. Hmm… but if you sleep on them directly won’t you have marks on your arms legs and face? ^^; I would do that on purpose just to see the pattern on my skin, lol.

    • Yi says:

      @lightningsabre: Haha, maybe. I lay out a futon and have pillows, but I might just try that one day. A flower print on my face can be kind of nice.

  8. Fabrice says:

    Me loves tatami flooring, my grandparents house in singapore is also covered in tatami ^^

  9. Ryan A says:

    Tatami paradise! Having a place suitable for tatami mats must be nice🙂 It doesn’t work in all structures, especially many Western architectures.

    Also, the ED is great, I was thrilled to see Yoshinori Sunahara as part of that collab.

    • Yi says:

      @Ryan A: Yea Tatami would look awkward in a western styled room, but I have seen some western houses incorporate successfully a separate Japanese styled room into its floorplan. Tatami would be nice there too.

      Love that ED! I wasn’t aware who Yoshinori Sunahara is before, but after some google/youtube search, I really like his works. Thanks!

  10. Ningyo says:

    Dang right, I’m really enjoying Yakushimaru Etsuko right now. Whimsical – yes, that’s the one word I’ll use to describe her if that one were all I were allowed. And her voice, think of all the roles she would kill in!

    Anyhow, that’s a good bit of culture to know, that some (many?) sleep on mats in Taiwan. I’ve done it in China, and in a hotel masquerading as a Japanese joint. My main complaint through that whole experience is still my dad’s snoring, and that stands true regardless of what we’re sleeping on.
    That time in China was at a school-organized boot-camp trip, and there wasn’t a futon over that. My main complaint for that time was my roommate’s boner, which he had in conspicuous display, every single night, ALL THE TIME.

    All to say, with what is essentially the floor of the room and someone as fussy as myself, you’d think I’d have a big problem with sleeping on tatami, but from experience I seem to be alright. Can’t call myself artistically appreciative enough to notice the beauty of tessellation.

    • Yi says:

      @Ningyo: Tessellation! That was the word I was looking for during this whole post.

      Anyways, in my reply to Glo above, building a washitsu within an otherwise “western” styled house was actually fairly common practice during the 80s and 90s in Taiwan. It’s lost favor in more recent times. I thought it was nice though.

      Anyways, although it must have been a rather traumatizing experience, I chuckled at your story about your roommate. ^ ^

  11. Tatami mats look interesting, I might just get some for my home someday for a meditation room or home office. But that many years from now!!!!!😦

  12. lovelyduckie says:

    Every time I see one of my characters go to bed on the floor, I wonder about how comfortable that is in comparison to a bed. I’d like to try it one day.

    • Yi says:

      @lovelyduckie: It’s pretty comfortable once you get used to it. It’s softer than carpeted floor, but harder than gymnastic mats, but I think it also depends a lot on the futon.

  13. Shin says:

    The closest thing I have experienced to a tatami is a rolled up straw mat that my grandmother used to own, which most of her children slept on because they were really poor. Feels bad man.

  14. 2DT says:

    I did a bit of research on tatami when I was first watching Tatami Galaxy and looking for something to say. It’s surprising that it used to be the flooring of the rich and powerful, when in this day and age it seems to be associated with cheap rooms in Tokyo for students who can’t get any better.

    Enjoy your time in Taiwan! Drink lots of bubble tea and all that. 🙂

    • Yi says:

      @2DT: When I did some background research for this post, that came up too. It seems that it has since then become more common place. And I guess it’s gone even lower today with the association with cheap rooms for students. Perfect for me!

      Love boba! I’ve been having a large different flavored drink each day, and it’s just heavenly.

  15. Dragon Of Hourai says:

    When i get a nicer place i want to see if i can get tatami mats put in

  16. bluedrakon says:

    I have never had the pleasure of laying on a Tatami mat myself. I hope that I get the chance to one day actually lay on one.

    Great video

    • Yi says:

      @bluedrakon: Yep yep. It’s a pretty good ED sequence right? Anyway, Tatami was actually quite comfortable once I got used to it. It’s also supposed to be good for people’s backs.

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  18. Janette says:

    Over the past couple weeks, I’ve developed a desire to see Taiwan someday…I hope you’re having fun.

    The anime is one of those I want to ask, but haven’t due to preparing to graduate. When Summer gets into full swing, I hope to go back and watch it.

    • Yi says:

      @Janette: Taiwan is quite an unique place and I’m loving it. Anyways, I can’t make up my mind about Tatami Galaxy. It’s very stylish and it’s very different, but I’m still debating if it’s too out there for my tastes. Love the ED though.

  19. Persocom says:

    I’ve never slept on Tatami, but I’ve slept on grass in parks, floors in abandoned buildings, cardboard in an alley, etc. I do know one thing about sleeping on a hard flat surface though, it’s much more comfortable than a bed or a sofa. I wake up with back aches all the time sleeping on a sofa or bed, but for some reason after sleeping on a flat surface I feel more energized and my body thanks me. Not sure why. I’d love to sleep on tatami some day, wouldn’t mind replacing my carpet with tatami. That song was great, must find more music by her now :3

    • Yi says:

      @Persocom: “I’ve slept on grass in parks, floors in abandoned buildings, cardboard in an alley, etc.”
      I can only imagine how tough that was. I wish you the best now. ^ ^
      Anyways, tatami is not nearly as hard as floors. While it’s not comfortable initially, once I got used to it, I feel great in the morning, so I definitely agree.
      I read once too that really soft beds are actually terrible for the back and posture, so something harder is sometimes recommended.

  20. AS says:

    I’ve never slept on tatami mats but I have been on them lol. If I move to Japan to teach English, I expect to sleep on tatami’s for a while lol. Probably no room for a bed when I move xD. I hope to visit Taiwan one day and try all those delicacies ^^.

    • Yi says:

      @AS: As 2DT posted above, tatami’s rather cheap, so it might be a nice option for some. It’s really quite nice too!
      Anyways, Taiwan has some bizarre but delicious foods. If you’re ever here, you must try the stinky tofu and have lots of boba!

      • AS says:

        @Yi: Haha, I think Tomoyo would like some stinky tofu, she loves the stuff xD. I still need to try it so I will take you up on that offer. Boba is pretty popular where I live but I bet Taiwan has much more exotic flavors.

  21. Reltair says:

    Aww, I never slept on tatami before. I need to try that out for sure when I get around to going to Japan. I guess that means staying at a hostel or something.

  22. Yu says:

    My father’s side is from Taiwan, and nearly all of them live in Taipei. Not being extremely wealthy and Taipei being a city, they all live in apartments, which certainly restricts the use of tatami😛 But, when we visited an aunt in the countryside, we slept on tatami and futons. It was so hot I could have gone without the futon.

    On food:
    -Poor quality stinky tofu tastes like what diarrhea smells like. D:
    -Chicken testicles are a delicacy. They look like miniature kidneys and they come in soup. If you don’t prefer chicken testicles, you can order the conventional pot o’ organs for things like livers and hearts and stomachs.
    -For some reason, Taiwanese people are very fond of putting mayonnaise all over their seafood.
    -This exists in Taiwan and I still have not been able to visit it:
    http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1882569,00.html

    Oh, and if you have not noticed yet, I’ve become a follower of your blog! x)

    • Yi says:

      @Yu: Taiwan is ridiculously hot for me. I’m too used to North American weather. Even during the rainy season right now, I still have to turn on the fan every night. Sleeping on just the tatami without the futon is indeed a lot cooler.

      “Poor quality stinky tofu tastes like what diarrhea smells like. D:”
      Reminds me of some urban legends I’ve heard that are too disgusting to share.

      Haven’t tried chicken testicles but I do love offal. Pig intestines are one of my favorites, and they’re everywhere!
      Taiwanese restaurants also love Thousand Island Dressing on any salad too.

      As for the toilet restaurant, I saw that a year ago or so on the Travel Channel. I made a note to myself at the time to visit it when I visit Taiwan. The link reminds me to definitely try to find it. Thanks!
      Imagine having yellow curry or chocolate ice cream… Yum!

      “Oh, and if you have not noticed yet, I’ve become a follower of your blog! x)”
      Thank you so much for visiting. I hope I can keep making posts that you find interesting. ^ ^

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  24. Nopy says:

    I’d like to try sleeping on tatami mats sometime. The closest I’ve gotten was sleeping on some fake tatami in a hotel in Kyoto.

  25. Can one sleep on a tatami everyday? That is, discard the normal bed and permanently use tatami mats instead?

    • Yi says:

      That’s actually what I’m doing for the next three months. It’s totally OK to discard a normal bed and just sleep on tatami.
      They’re very comfortable with a futon or just a few thick blankets underneath. And they’re supposed to be good for one’s posture.

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