Tatami rides wave of newfound popularity among overseas visitors
The Japan Times JIJI Jan 5, 2017
Tatami mats are attracting tourists from overseas. | ISTOCK
Tatami mats, a trapping of traditional Japanese life, are attracting the attention of growing numbers of tourists from overseas.
To meet the newfound demand, lodgings, including high-end urban hotels, are publicizing Japanese-style rooms featuring the traditional mats.
At the Hotel Grand Ark Hanzomon, tatami rooms overlooking the sprawling Imperial Palace in central Tokyo have seen growth in reservations from foreign visitors, an official of the hotel said.
Tatami rooms are cool in summer and warm in winter. The scent of rush, of which tatami is made, has a comforting, therapeutic effect reminiscent of strolling in a forest.
“Walking barefoot on tatami and relaxing in a bath helps people regain vitality,” said Yoshiki Anamizu, former chief of an association promoting tatami.
The experience is novel for many foreign nationals, many of whom like it quite a bit.
Tatami demand for use in homes in Japan has been in decline in recent years, reflecting the Westernization of the living environment. According to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, tatami production in Japan totaled 2.54 million mats in fiscal 2015-2016, down 60 percent from a decade earlier.
By contrast, tatami matting has gained in popularity among people from abroad.
Located in an office district in the center of Tokyo, Hoshinoya Tokyo provides a totally different world. Featuring tatami throughout the facility, from the main entrance to the guest rooms, it offers the atmosphere of a long-established Japanese inn.
Foreign visitors account for 60 percent of guests for overnight and long stays, including many repeat customers.
Japanese-style rooms are also in high demand at Rihga Royal Hotel Kyoto. In addition, the hotel in central Kyoto started offering rooms that mix Japanese and Western styles in September, in response to requests from foreigners who want to experience tatami culture but sleep on beds.
In the run-up to the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, projects to welcome and treat guests from overseas on tatami have been proposed by public and private groups.
“The market for tatami is heating up,” said Koichi Kanbe, chief of the Japan Tatami Industry Promotion Association.
In line with the keen interest from abroad in tatami, there are expectations that Japanese will rediscover the fascination of their traditional mats. “We’d like to communicate widely the merits of tatami and hand down tatami culture to the future,” Anamizu said.
This video explains the making of tatami and various things about their use. Good information, but the Col. Sanders-looking dude is a total dweeb...