Tatami … not just for futons

畳 – tatamu

Tatami is derived from the verb tatamu which means “to fold” or “to pile” which corresponds to the construction of the early tatami mats but also to the fact that they were originally foldable and piled up when not in use.

Firstly, mats were made with a compressed rice straw core (doko) which was wrapped in a braided mat of the same material. Contemporary mats use extruded polystyrene foam or compressed wood chips for the core. The wrapping is a weft-faced weave of soft Igusa grass on a warp of hemp or weaker cotton. The long edges of the mats are finished with a colourful ribbon (heri), with or without a motif.

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What are Zabuton?

 座 za – sit

 布団 futon – cushion (or bed)

Literally: sit cushion. Zabuton is a small futon, used to sit more comfortably on the floor.

The traditional way of sitting called seiza (pronounced: SAY-ee-zah) which translates as “proper sit”) is practiced when you kneel with your legs folded underneath you with your bum resting on your heels. This way of sitting conveys respect and is a healthy way of sitting. Sitting seiza opens your knee and ankle joints, engages your core muscles. It also maintains proper spinal alignment. Because sitting seiza creates a shape that is longer than wide, the zabuton are rectangular, rather than square in shape.

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