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Do Japanese sleep on tatami?


Japanese culture is rich and diverse, and one of the most intriguing aspects is their traditional way of living. One of the most common questions about Japanese living habits is whether they sleep on tatami mats. In this article, we will explore this topic in detail and understand the significance of tatami in Japanese culture.

The Traditional Japanese Bedroom

The traditional Japanese bedroom, called washitsu, is distinct from Western-style bedrooms. It features tatami mats on the floor, shoji screens covering the windows, and futons for sleeping. Tatami mats are a key component of this design and are used as flooring material.

Japanese Snack Box

The History of Tatami Mats

Tatami mats have been a part of Japanese culture since the Heian period (794-1185). They were first used as floor coverings in temples and aristocratic homes. Over time, they became more accessible to ordinary people and are now a common feature in Japanese homes.

Tatami Mat Construction

Tatami mats are made from rice straw, which is tightly woven together and covered with a layer of woven rush grass. The resulting mat is strong, durable, and naturally resistant to moisture and insects. Tatami mats vary in size, but a standard size is 90 cm by 180 cm.

Benefits of Sleeping on Tatami Mats

Sleeping on a tatami mat has several benefits. Tatami mats are breathable, which means they help regulate temperature and humidity in the room. They also provide a comfortable sleeping surface that supports the body’s natural alignment and reduces pressure points.

Cultural Significance of Tatami Mats

Tatami mats have significant cultural importance in Japan. They represent simplicity, humility, and harmony with nature. In traditional Japanese aesthetics, tatami mats are often paired with minimalistic decor to create a calming atmosphere.

Modern Use of Tatami Mats

While tatami mats were once ubiquitous in Japanese homes, their use has declined in recent years. Many modern homes use Western-style flooring like hardwood or carpet. However, some Japanese still prefer tatami mats for their traditional aesthetic and health benefits.

Caring for Tatami Mats

Tatami mats require special care to maintain their quality and longevity. They should be kept dry and clean to prevent mold or insect infestations. Shoes should never be worn on tatami mats as they can damage the woven rush layer.

Alternative Sleeping Options

While tatami mats are a popular sleeping option in Japan, there are alternatives available for those who prefer a different sleeping surface. Futons can be placed directly on the floor or on a Western-style bed frame, while some Japanese opt for Western-style mattresses on top of tatami mats.

The Future of Tatami Mats

As Japan becomes more westernized, the use of tatami mats is expected to continue declining. However, there remains a significant cultural value placed on them by many Japanese people who value tradition and aesthetic beauty.


Tatami mats have been an important part of Japanese culture for centuries, serving as flooring material in homes and representing values like simplicity and harmony with nature. While their use has declined in modern times, they remain an important part of Japan’s cultural heritage and aesthetic identity.


1. “Tatami.” Japan Guide. Accessed September 22, 2021.
2. “The History of Tatami Mats.” The Spruce Crafts. Accessed September 22, 2021.
3. “Traditional Japanese Room.” Japan National Tourism Organization. Accessed September 22, 2021.
4. “The Cultural Significance of Tatami Mats.” KCP International Language School Blog. Accessed September 22, 2021.
5. “Why You Should Sleep on A Tatami Mat.” Accessed September 22, 2021.

Why do Japanese sleep on tatami?

Tatami mats are lightweight and breathable, and they are positioned on the floor to allow cool air to circulate. This design takes advantage of the fact that warm air rises, while cool air settles to the floor. In hot weather, it is possible to sleep directly on the tatami, without using a futon, to take advantage of its cooling properties.

Is it good to sleep on tatami?

Tatami mats can provide relief from back pain and also aid in improving one’s posture. The neutral sleeping position helps the spine to rest without causing any discomfort or knots in the back, resulting in less soreness and more relaxed joints upon waking up.

Do the Japanese still sleep on futons?

In Japan, even though a lot of individuals have adopted Western-style beds, futons are still a preferred option, particularly in smaller living spaces, because they are easy to move or store.

Are tatami mats hard to sleep on?

Using a tatami mat can regulate heat and maintain dryness of the futon. Tatami mats are commonly used for sleeping because they provide the perfect level of cushioning – not too hard like flooring materials.

Why do tatami mats smell?

Tatami mats are made of natural materials like grass and straw, which can sometimes have a strong odor. These mats are produced without harmful chemicals. If the smell is too overpowering, simply leave the mat outside for a few days. It’s important to keep the mat dry and avoid exposure to rain or sprinklers.

Why are tatami mats so expensive?

The tatami mats undergo heat treatment before being cleared for customs in the US. Shipping expenses have significantly increased in recent years, up to six times the cost before 2019. Additionally, there are customs and tariff fees for importing tatami mats into the United States. This information was last updated on June 4, 2022.

In addition to its cultural significance, tatami mats are also eco-friendly. The materials used in their construction are natural and renewable, making them a sustainable choice for flooring. They also have a long lifespan if properly cared for, reducing the need for frequent replacements.

Tatami mats are not just limited to traditional Japanese homes. They can be incorporated into modern homes as well, adding a touch of elegance and simplicity to any space. Some interior designers use tatami mats to create a calming and Zen-like atmosphere in bedrooms, meditation rooms, and yoga studios.

Despite the decline in use of tatami mats in modern Japan, there are still dedicated craftsmen who continue to make them using traditional techniques. These artisans take pride in their work and strive to maintain the high standards of quality that have been established over centuries.

For those interested in incorporating tatami mats into their homes, there are many options available. Tatami mat manufacturers offer a range of sizes and styles to fit different needs and preferences. Some even offer custom-made mats that can be tailored to specific dimensions or designs.

In conclusion, tatami mats are an important part of Japanese culture and aesthetics, representing values like simplicity, humility, and harmony with nature. While their use has declined in modern times, they remain a popular choice for those who value tradition and health benefits. With proper care and maintenance, tatami mats can last for many years and add a touch of elegance to any space.

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