Said to have first appeared in the Jomon (13,000 BC to 300 BC) and Yayoi (300 BC to 300 AD) periods in ancient Japanese history, simple straw mats known as “mushiro” gradually developed into tatami mats about 500 years ago. These mats are woven from Igusa (aka Juncus Effusus) straw and were initially in use exclusively by the nobility class. As they became more popular, tatami mats soon started being used as floor coverings in the homes of commoners in the 17th century.
1. Great during warm weather
Although modern Japanese homes don’t usually have tatami flooring, they still sometimes roll them out in the summer when it is hot as tatami is cool to the touch. Sitting or lying down on a tatami mat can be very comfortable as it allows air to freely circulate around the body. This is especially ideal in Singapore’s warm climate!
2. Creates a relaxing atmosphere
If you love to create a tranquil atmosphere in your home, a tatami mat may just complete that feel (and look). Despite being soft, tatami mats are able to reduce unwanted ‘shocking’ sounds and background noises by absorbing them – thanks to the airs contained in their fibres – helping you keep the home zen-like.
3. A scent that heals
Phytoncide, an ingredient in tatami mats, is apparently the source of its natural forest scent. During times of stress, resting on a tatami mat and breathing in its calming forest scent may actually make you feel a lot better!
4. Fights osteoporosis and promotes longevity
Because traditional Japanese homes do not have regular furniture like sofas and chairs – and is instead furnished with tatami mats - one has to keep moving from a standing to sitting or kneeling position and back to standing position throughout the day. These movements help to create strong leg and back muscles, and essentially a strong body.
Additionally, sleeping on a tatami mat (which is often placed on a hard ground) reduces the risk of developing spinal deformities as compared to sleeping on a soft bed as it keeps the back straight.
Considering purchasing a tatami mat? They are not commonly sold in Singapore, but here are some local shops where you can find them: