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.
My upcoming events are here.