When most rooms in Japanese houses had tatami floors, an easy daily cleanup was done with broom and dustpan. Sweeping removed dust quickly and was a simple activity that kept everyday life clean.
Such scenes are seen less and less often these days, but is this a good thing, even though our lifestyles are getting more diverse? Just to clean up a small space, we have to pull out a vacuum cleaner, use it for a short period, then put it back.
Bearing this in mind, why don't you keep a broom and 'harimi' (paper dustpan) in your room? A harimi is made from Japanese paper coated with persimmon tannin, and the size is about 20cm. The color of a harimi is appropriate and it will fit in with any kind of room. The size is quite small and it does not appear jarring.
Daily tools like a harimi look wonderful, even when left lying around in a room. Moreover, a harimi is very useful when used with a small broom for little spaces such as desktops and shelves.
Technology in Japan allows for the production of the world’s thinnest gold foil. It is so advanced that gold alloy the size of a ten-yen coin can be stretched to the size of one tatami (traditional Japanese flooring: approximately 1.6562 m2). The technology for creating foil is no longer limited to just gold, but to all kinds of metals, which allows for a wider variety of colors as well. The ring above is made of acrylic fiber, foiled with sterling silver. The integration of the foil’s thinness with the absolute clarity of the acrylic fiber results in a ring that has ice-like characteristics, it being light, airy and translucent. The thinly stretched silver foil gives this ring the appropriate hard texture and feel that sterling silver should have.
-Sterling silver-foil finish
Design: Masako Saka (acrylic)
Produced by: Ubushina,Yudai Tachikawa
The water-faucet metalwork here were customized for the Japanese-style room of a private residence in Kamakura. They have been made to suit Japanese-style rooms. The architect asked Ubushina whether an original finish could be applied to the ready-made fixtures in this room and Ubushina suggested a traditional coloring technique for metalwork such as the faucets, piping and towel-rack.
Usually, water faucets are chrome-plated, but it was possible to remake them to suit this room. It is only by adding a little Japanese technique to foreign objects not made in a Japanese-style, that they can be identified with a traditional Japanese space; at the same time, a new direction is revealed for a Japanese-style room where you spend time ‘now’.
By using a sulfide coloring, ‘the West’ has been pulled into Japan and a pleasing atmosphere has been developed.
■Faucet Metalwork (for a private residence)
* sulfide coloring
*designed by Jotosaki Architectural Institute
■produced by Ubushina, Yudai Tachikawa
Located in Kiwa, near Kumano in Mie Prefecture, Maruyama Senmaida is a beautiful group of terraced ricefields that have been designated among Japan's 100 most beautiful.
The word 'senmaida' means 'thousand-layered small ricefields'. There are over 1300 terraced fields; some reputed to be so small that farmers are heard to say, 'I found the field I lost, it's here under my bamboo hat'.
A while ago, depopulation had reduced the number of ricefields to nearly 500, but thanks to the local population combining efforts with Kiwa-cho and the adoption of an owner-system, the number of ricefields is back to what it used to be.
The narrowest field is only two tatami-mats wide, and the elevation difference between the lowest and highest terrace is nearly 100m. It is impossible to use machines because of the steep incline of the terraces. Therefore every single blade of rice is reaped by hand.
There are many steep rice terraces in Japan, but Maruyama Senmaida leads in beauty and in its state of preservation. It can be said that these rice terraces literally comprise a scene of peaceful interaction between humans and nature.
Stones are very different from each other: big stones or small ones; stones left around that no one would look at; or stones that attract you and make you want to hold them.
Stones are the symbols that show each culture. In Italy, there are many buildings made of stones laid one on top of the other. There are no earthquakes in Italy and its history is that of a country that readily builds in stone.
In Japan, stones are used to lay the foundations for castles. Moreover, some roads made of 'stone-tatami' have been selected as some of the Major 100 Roads of Japan. Our ancestors' wisdom produced strong roads that protected the people's feet.
But is the purpose of using stones only for that? If you have a closer look at the roads, there are different stone-patterns, such as combinations of irregular sides, regular squares and round stones. The patterns give you a feeling of artistry rather than practicality. Such stone art, like mosaics, show one side of the Japanese sense of fun.
A Japanese-style room is never without tatami mats. Many of the items and influences in Japanese cultures came from foreign countries, such as ancient China or the Korean Peninsula. But tatami were invented through the Japanese people's wisdom of living.
The history of tatami dates back 1000 years. In the Heian period, tatami were very expensive. They were installed in the mansions of the nobility and there are extant paintings of people sitting on tatami.
Tatami materials include rushes or rice straw. The stalks of these plants have fine cavities like spider-webs, which absorb moisture and harmful organic substances. Moreover, the cavities act as air-cushions to keep people from injury. The rough surface of tatami stimulates the soles of feet which in turn helps activate the brain. In addition, the unique smell of the rushes has an effect like aromatherapy.
Tatami remind us of the best of Japanese traditions.
Kumejimakaigan no Tatamiishi (the Tatami Rocks of Kumejima Island Beach) is a coastal area of Oujima Island, Okinawa, that features regular formations of peculiar rocks.
Oujima is a small isolated island lying to the east of Kumejima and has a circumference of only 4km. On its southern end are groups of peculiar pentagon- and hexagon-shaped rocks about 1m to 2m in diameter. These smooth rocks are called tatamiishi (tatami rocks) because the appearance of the rocks is similar to traditional Japanese flooring with tatami mats. At a glance, they also look like the patterns on a tortoise shell.
Ou means the isolated island where 'fusou' (a ritual where the deceased were left on an island to naturally decompose) was practiced. Oujima was once deserted, but today is used for sugarcane-growing.
The only highlight of this island are the tatami rocks. The beach has also become a popular spot for swimming.
There are about 1000 tatami rocks, each approximately 1m in diameter. These rocks were formed when hot magma cooled and cracked perpendicularly to create a pillar-shaped structure. It is very rare, even outside Japan, to see so many of these rocks in one place.
The Old Eri Family Residence (Kyuu-Erike-Jyuutaku) is located in Ookawa-machi, Sanuki, Kagawa Prefecture, and is the oldest farmhouse residential building in all of Kagawa.
It was built in the 17th century, and originally was found in Nina, Ookawa-machi. The Erike ancestors bore their surname from this land, and settled on the estate. Currently, the house has been relocated to the Miroku Natural Park.
The layout of the house is known as 'sanma-madori' (three-room plan) and is harmonized by a style distinct to Eastern Kagawa. Its most distinguishing characteristics are the thatched roof, built using a technique called 'tsukudare', along with the simple decorations. The main beam of the house efficiently utilizes the bend of the tree, and is exposed at the ceiling. The ceiling of the house is formed by woven bamboos, covered with soil and clay. This kind of ceiling is called 'yamato tenjyo' ('yamato ceiling').
An 8-jyo (8-tatami) Japanese-style room with a tokonoma (alcove) is laid out, along with a traditional porch that is flooded with warm, luminous sunlight. Seeing people bask in the sun on the porch somehow brings a feeling of nostalgia, giving the house a sentimental feel. It has been nominated as an Important Cultural Property of Japan.