What is a tatami room?

Written by joan reinbold
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What is a tatami room?

A Japanese tatami room, called a washitsu (or nihonma), is a room decorated in a traditional Japanese style. It has shoji and tatami and may have a tokonoma, if it's for guest reception.

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Tatami are mats made using rice straw (traditionally), woodchip boards or styrofoam as the centre, covered with a rush straw covering (omote). Some tatami have cloth edging.

Tatami layout patterns.
Tatami layout patterns.

Tatami Dimensions

Tatami sizes depend on the area of Japan. On average, tatami measure three feet by six feet.

What is a tatami room?
Men Making Tatami (1860)

Washitsu Size

Regular sized washitsu contains six (9 feet by 12 feet) or eight (12 feet by 12 feet) tatami.


Shoji are sliding room dividers and doors made of washi paper, machine paper or plastic, placed over a bamboo or wooden frame.


A tokonoma is a raised alcove that can have hanging decorative scrolls, arranged flowers, bonsai, small objects such as carvings and a pillar made from a tree trunk.


Washitsu furniture can include a kotatsu (a table with a small heater underneath it) and zabuton (sitting cushions).

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