The Tatami Mat

From Dreaming Spies:

“Tatami are quite uniform. Our houses are built around them, so they fit together to keep out drafts from below. Every year, we take each house to pieces and clean it, from attic to foundation: this is required, by our government. Even then, so sorry, you will often find fleas.”


The pristine and precisely measured tatami mat, made from layers of tightly woven straw, forms the basis of the Japanese house. A room size is referred to by the number of mats (sometimes half-mats) that fit together on its floor, wall to wall. Tatami have regional variations in size, but are roughly three foot by six. Because straw is soft, the outdoor footwear is never worn on them, only slippers (kept at the door) or in informal settings, socks.

Traditionally, the government—enforced by the local police departments—required all householders to take their houses apart every year and clean them to the beams. Still, travellers like Isabella Bird invariably note that even the cleanest inn is beset by fleas.

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14 days until Dreaming Spies! Other posts about writing and researching the book can be seen here, or you can read a long excerpt here

You can pre-order a signed copy from Poisoned Pen Books or Bookshop Santa Cruz, and unsigned or e-books from IndiebooksAmazon/Kindle, or Barnes & Noble/Nook.

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  1. Hans Kuendig on January 1, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    Hi Laurie,

    Interesting information about tatamis. I’m wondering where I might purchase some tatamis. Do you know?


    • Laurie King on January 1, 2016 at 6:34 pm

      I’d guess you could find them at a shop that specializes in Japanese goods, or perhaps online.

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