Culture

After Thousands of Years in Family Homes, Traditional Japanese Flooring Goes Modern

A contemporary update on classic tatami is finding fans at home in Japan and with interior designers abroad.

By 4 min read

Tatami is the flooring used in traditional Japanese architecture as far back as the Heian period (794–1185). It’s made from rice straw, compressed wood or, more recently, even synthetic materials. It’s durable, practically fireproof and grants excellent insulation. It also feels pretty great on your feet. 

Once considered an item of luxury for Japanese aristocrats, it’s since become a symbol of Japanese aesthetics. Most homes in Japan have at least one tatami room. It’s so ubiquitous in Japanese houses that it’s the country’s de facto method of measuring a room’s size. For example, information on an apartment to rent might say that the living room is “big enough for six tatami mats.”

Sadly, tatami is fading from Japanese interior design. Constructing it takes a skilled hand. It’s a slow and meticulous process that results in a firm and springy texture and a unique sweet and earthy aroma that permeates the room. But it doesn’t come cheap. Moreover, mats need to be replaced every decade. Thus, tatami is not exactly something for everyone.

The Sekisui Tatami Migusa showroom in Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo.

Enter Sekisui Seikei, experts in the plastic industry, who have essentially ushered the tatami mat into the modern age using a specially developed plastic called Migusa.

Migusa is a new type of tatami that delivers modern-day functionality while retaining the authentic texture and feel of an all-natural mat made from rush. While the material provides the genuine look and feel of tatami matting, the plastic component plays a vital role in enhancing durability, improving product safety and allowing more design and color schemes at more affordable prices. 

Whether you live in Japan or not, Migusa-made tatami is perfect for modern urbanites keen on adding an exclusive touch of traditional culture or simply an elegant bit of Japanese influence to their homes.

Migusa advantages

Sekisui Tatami Migusa mats on display in its Tokyo showroom. The square mats can also be stored like this at home.

Unlike with typical tatami, managing Migusa is a breeze. Spills, dust and dirt can all be cleaned with just a damp cloth or quick vacuum — without scratching or damaging the flooring itself. Whether you use tatami for the living room, a child’s play area or a space dedicated to yoga and meditation, you can be assured that no regular activity is going to bang up your tatami.

It’s extremely versatile, too. Who says tatami has to stick to traditional green? Sekisui Seikei’s catalog of Migusa floor mats come in a variety of colors and styles suitable for any decor. These range from mellow and warm earth tones to bright and playful candy-inspired hues.

These are thin and light floor mats designed to be used in any area of your home where you would like to add some style, comfort and protection — they come in a wide range of weave patterns and over 60 different color varieties. Mixing and matching to suit your decor is easy since they weigh just 4 kilograms and each 83 centimeter by 83 centimeter square is only 1.5 centimeters thick. This makes them light and easily moved by a single person. A polyethylene slip-prevention material on the underside keeps mats in place, preventing them from sliding and keeping the floors underneath safe.

Migusa tatami mats are created to last a lifetime. As beautiful and intricate as traditional tatami is, unfortunately, it is also susceptible to mold, bacteria and even mites. Migusa is made with polypropylene and calcium, substances that repel molds and bacteria (unlike the natural rush plant used in traditional tatami). As such, Migusa’s modern take on tatami will last much longer than the straw used in conventional Japanese-style floor mats. 

This modern, versatile take on traditional tatami flooring is a stylish and sophisticated way to display the cool art of Japanese sensibility in your home. 

For those looking for a complete interior design makeover, Sekisui Seikei also uses Migusa materials in its Izuco furniture line.  

Migusa mats used on a table surface and chairs as part of the Sekisui Seikei Izuco furniture line.

You can see more on Migusa tatami flooring on the Migusa website. For those in Japan who are interested in purchasing Migusa floor mats, the company has flagship showrooms in Osaka and Tokyo: 

  • Sekisui Tatami Migusa Tokyo Showroom (reservations required)
    4F Sumitomo Shoji Kanda-Izumicho Building, 1 Kandaizumi-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0024
  • Sekisui Tatami Migusa Osaka Showroom (reservation required) 25F Nakanoshima Daibiru Building, 3-3-23 Nakanoshima, Kita-ku, Osaka 530-6125

Overseas readers who would like to know more about these modern tatami products or who want to make purchase inquiries can visit the Sekisui Tatami Migusa English-language website

The company also has two English-language customer service lines available:

  • +81 80 1490-1793
  • +81 3 6837-0305

More detailed information can be obtained by contacting Mr. Naoki Furuta at: naoki.furuta.ssk@sekisui.com

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