Rooms Fitted With Modern Tatami Mats Great for Families; Chic Space Used for Naps, Gatherings

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Pale pink tatami mats accentuate a Western-style room in Toru Yanagisawa’s house in Ota Ward, Tokyo.

Tatami mats bring a relaxed atmosphere to any room. Nowadays, the materials used to make them have diversified and color variations differ depending on the type of rush grass used to make them. There are more and more tatami mats well-suited to Western-style rooms. An increasing number of people now use modern-style tatami spaces in their living rooms.

Toru Yanagisawa, 55, a company employee in Ota Ward, Tokyo, renovated his apartment two years ago and replaced the wood flooring space next to the living room with tatami.

Yanagisawa discussed the changes with his 51-year-old wife and their two daughters in their early 20s. They chose muted colors for the floor and walls while using pale pink tatami mats that had caught their eye in the showroom. “The pale pink tatami mats accentuate the chic floor and walls,” Yanagisawa said in a satisfied tone. He added that the tatami space is convenient because his wife, who likes wearing kimono, can spread it out easily and they can also use the area to put a futon for sleeping.

Many apartment residents use tatami mats in their living room and other central places of their homes, according to Mayuka Kawasaki, an official of Tokyo-based Quma Co., which installed the mats.

Many residents give reasons for using the tatami mats, such as, “We want to sleep in a futon on the floor,” and “We need a play space for our kids,” according to Kawasaki.

Today, not only are traditional tatami mats made from rush grass available, but it is also possible to choose mats made with various materials and in various colors, such as color fade-resistant ones made with washi traditional Japanese paper and strong, pet-friendly ones made with resin materials. The diversity is encouraging more people to install tatami mats in their homes.

Ryu Amano, 33, a company employee in Mitaka, Tokyo, created a raised tatami-floored area in the living room on the second floor of his house built in the autumn of 2023. Amano wanted to create a relaxing Japanese-style room and his 40-year-old wife Akiko wanted to make their house look stylish. They coordinated what they wanted and decided to build the tatami-floored area.

The raised area is about 26 centimeters higher than the adjacent floor, making it easy to sit down on, and has a floor space of 4.5 tatami mats — roughly 7.3 square meters. The area is fitted with nine half-size, borderless tatami mats made with washi paper. The tatami products come from building materials manufacturer Daiken Corp.

Amano chose a pale gray from 15 different colors that goes well with the greige-colored floor, which is a mix of gray and beige. The tatami color also matches well with the door of a closet in the area.

Their 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son play in the area while family members lie down and watch TV. The raised tatami-floored area is now a place where the family gathers together. “We compared sample colors and found our favorite tatami color,” Akiko said with a smile.

According to Shigekazu Hyodo of Daiken, while the number of newly built condominiums and houses with Japanese-style rooms is on a decline, borderless tatami mats that match well with Western-style rooms and tatami mats in gray tones that go well with room interiors are recently gaining popularity. “Full-sized, bordered tatami mats have a strong Japanese ambience but half-size, square-shaped tatami mats look modern and contemporary,” he said.

Easy-to-use tatami units, which users can place on the wood floor on their own, are available with prices starting at ¥10,340 for a half-size unit. Consumers can install them without renovating their homes.

“Lying down on tatami mats is comfortable, which is one of their appealing features. There are many kinds of tatami mats so I recommend consumers consult with nearby tatami shops to find their favorite colors,” Hyodo said. Potential customers can use a visualizer tool on Daiken’s website to try out tatami mat color combinations.