My favorite room in our house is the tatami room. Tatami are traditional Japanese mats made out of straw and placed on the floor like carpeting. Although our tatami are faded and well-worn, the room often smells like sweet and clean like grass.
|Looking into the tatami room from the living room|
(the genkan is the door on the right)
Edit: Here's a great article about using the kotatsu and winter weather by You, Me, and a Tanuki.
|Below table heater|
Our kotatsu table is removable (the top and frame are stored in the space below, with extra tatami mats to place over the opening in the floor). Although we haven't had any friends or family come visit yet, switching the tatami room from a formal dining room to a guest room would be very convenient.
Another nice feature of using tatami, the mats are completely removable. Not too long ago, a potty training toddler had an accident in the tatami room. Even after thoroughly drying and cleaning the mats, a faint smell lingered. So I pulled up the mat and put it out in the sun for the afternoon. No more pee-pee smell.
|Back and front of tatami|
Speaking of cleaning, tatami do require some special maintenance First, make sure you frequently check under any objects for mold. Here is one example of mold growing under a futon mattress. When we first moved in, I used the tatami room to store all of our boxes and packing paper. A few months later I had a nasty surprise waiting for me underneath all those boxes - the dreaded kabi (mildew). I also take the extra mats out of the closet and make sure they're aired out from time to time.
The mats are spendy to replace (I think around $150 to $200 per basic mat (our room has 4 regular sized mats and 4 customs mats, so you do the math)), but I try not to freak out too much about the tatami. Much like carpeting, the mats need to be replaced from time to time. (And so do the shoji screens, another part of our washitsu, which I'll cover in a future post.)
The tatami room is a special treat while living in Japan. I know not every family is lucky enough to enjoy such a traditional space and love using ours as much as possible.