Tatami rooms are a wonderful part of many Japanese homes. They are elegant and stylish.
But look up “Japanese tatami room” in any Japanese DIY handyman’s manual and within the first few paragraphs, any guide will likely mention the notorious requirement for constant care, cleaning and replacement of materials in order to maintain their appearance.
Most materials used in the construction and decoration of traditional tatami rooms are natural fiber products, including raw pine wood, rush fiber and rice paper. The rooms look and smell great when they are fresh and new, but deteriorate, yellow and mould with age.
Earlier, we provided tips for renewing aged and discolored rice paper on the Japanese Shoji paper doors of tatami rooms. Now we turn our focus to replacing tatami floor panels – a larger, more expensive and somewhat more involved renewal job.
Traditional tatami floor panels are usually made from neatly woven mats of rush fibre (ie: Igusa plant) stretched over and sewn onto thick blocks of compacted straw from the same plant.
In recent years, lighter weight, synthetically backed tatami flooring panel alternatives have also become available. Some are often considered significantly inferior by traditionalists, but they do have benefits.