Home, sweet home , futon home
Japan, in many ways, is the most modern and technologically advanced country in the world. Yet the Japanese have retained some traditional housing and architecture. If you visited Tokyo, you would find modern buildings that look like those of many other world capitals. Yet around the corner you might discover a beautiful temple and be transported into the world of "old Japan." This contrast between the past and the present occurs again and again. Whether new or old, many Japanese homes have some items you might not find in your own home.
Today, many Japanese families live in apartment blocks or small modern houses. Sliding panels inside the home can enlarge or divide a room or open it onto a balcony. Homes are furnished with the same comfy sofas, beds, dining tables, chairs, televisions, computers, video games, and microwaves that many of us have in our own homes. However, it's not uncommon for at least one room to be decorated in the traditional style: the tatami room. In that room, grass tatami (tuh-tah-mee) matting covers the floor. HEILIG-MEYERS TO SELL ITS 236 MATTRESS STORES: DIVESTITUR
There are cushions, zabuton (zah-booton), instead of chairs arranged around a low table in the center of the room. The only room decorations are a hanging scroll and an ikebana (ik-ee-bah-nuh), a simple arrangement of flowers and twigs, placed in a narrow alcove, called a tokonoma (tok-oh-no-mah). At night, mattresses called futons are taken from a specially designed closet and placed on the floor. In the traditional-style bathroom, there is a low stool beside a wooden tub filled with very hot water--good for soaking in, like a Jacuzzi. Because the Japanese never wear shoes indoors, shoes are lined up at the front door or in an entry hall. Special slippers are usually provided for indoor wear.
Behind a sliding rice-paper panel is a small, walled garden. If this is the home of a wealthy family, the gravel might be raked into a swirling, wavelike pattern. Rocks sit like islands amid the sea of gravel. Ponds, stone lanterns, and tiny, twisted bonsai trees decorate the garden. The garden is a haven from the rush and bustle of everyday life.
Decor and furnishings in Japanese homes might be old or new. But like homes everywhere, the Japanese home is a place where old traditions are continued and new ones are formed; families and friends gather; meals are shared, and good memories are made.
Tatami, mats made from straw grass, are common in Japanese homes. Their delicate texture led to the custom of removing one's shoes before entering a Japanese home. The mats also received special treatment because they were often used for sleeping. http://futonszone.com/tracy-director-futon-mattress/
Early tatami mats were always made of the same size--three feet wide by six feet long. This led to another Japanese custom. The Japanese describe the size of a room by calculating how many tatami a room can hold.
Use of tatami began around the year 1000. At first, the mats were thin, so they were folded when not being used. Tatami comes from the word tatamu meaning to fold. Although many rooms in Japanese homes are covered in carpet, tile, or wood, you can still find tatami makers throughout the country. Moving into a new home often includes laying down new tatami mats. A fresh tatami mat is green and has a lovely grassy scent. Thus, for the Japanese, a new home is fragrant with a pleasant reminder that it is time to start anew.
Ann Stalcup is a teacher, writer, and frequent contributor to FACES. She loves to travel and experience other lifestyles and cultures for herself. Meet me in the middle | futon queen