Various fortuitous and misfortuitous laying patterns of tatami

A Word from the Teacher

Tatami History and How to Lay It
by Satou Ryouko

Mats that became the antecedent of modern tatami were born in the Nara period. Goza like mats were piled 5 or 6 layers and trimed with a brocade border were used as a bed by those of high status.
In the Heian period, tatami was placed where needed in the itanoma rooms of Shinden style palaces. It served as a place to sit or a place to sleep, and the thickness and border of the mats depended upon the status of the person using it.
In the Kamakura period, since rooms began to be completely covered with tatami, their usage changed from being sitting or sleeping furniture to being floor covering. However, since tatami was a high class item, only a portion of aristocrats could maintain a tatami covered floor lifestyle. According to literature of that period, the design of the border depended on the status of the person sitting on it. The tennou used a gradiated border, imperial princes and ministers used large crested Korean border, court nobility used a small crested Korean border, preists and those of the 4th and 5th rank used a purple border, and 6th rank and clerical preists of shrines and temples used a yellow border.
From the Adzuchi-Momoyama period, tatami spread and began to be used in townhouses as chanoyu developed. After the mid Edo period, it spread to the common people and the then the lastly the farmers.
The way tatami is laid is also established. Auspicious events and memorial services were seperated and the way the tatami was laid changed depending on the event. But as furniture increases, it became difficult to simply move the mats, so once they were laid there was position was fixed without moving. Also, since the size of the room was established beforehand, if the size of the tatami was not established, moving them was impossible. In the normal style of laying (fortuitous style) the tatami are laid so the corners do not meet. For memorial services (misfortuitous style), the tatami are aligned exactly opposite of this with the corners meeting. The corners of tatami meeting to make a cross (a 十 character) was a bad omen.