Tatami is a type of mat flooring used in traditional Japanese houses. There are some basic manners which you must be aware of when entering a Traditional Japanese Tatami room. Here are 4 of the most important things to remember.
Stepping on the doorsill is seen as disrespecting the territories of the owner and the house. It is considered so rude that it is said to be as bad as stepping on the owner’s face. It may also potentially damage the structure.
The tatami used to represent a status of the owner, those with higher statuses would only use the finest materials such as silk, imprinted in emblems, while the commoners would use more simple materials. The materials on the edges would wear off faster than the rest of tatami if people were constantly stepping on them. Other than that, the flooring at that time was bumpy and you could trip and fall. Some say that that the tatami edge was a gateway to another world, thus stepping on it would bring bad luck.
Besides that, some people even say that ninjas would be hiding under the tatami and they could easily slide a knife between the edges! So watch out!
This is customary in all Japanese houses. The shoes are considered to be dirty so you should remove them before stepping into a Japanese house to ensure that you do not bring dirt further than the genkan area. Almost all Japanese houses will have room slippers provided for the guests.
Instead, say “shitsurei shimasu” which is the equivalent to “excuse me”. When you have opened the sliding door, greet the owner.
Follow these rules and you will not offend anyone in Japan when you enter the tatami rooms! Even if you accidentally break the rules, the Japanese are known to be pretty understanding when it comes to cultural obliviousness. Some younger people probably won’t even notice. Nevertheless, it is best to always be polite and respectful!