Wednesday, September 9, 2009


In honor of today being the last day for a long time to have repeating single digits, I thought I would go ahead and post an entry.  Today will be an educational day.  We will discuss one aspect of the Japanese language, and we will discuss tatami floors.  Warning: these educational moments are not necessarily backed by research. ;-)

Katakana - the simplified version
Japanese basically has three ways to write things - hiragana, katakana, and kanji.  Hiragana and katakana represent sounds, and kanji can represent words or sounds.  The hiragana and katakana alphabets each have about 50 symbols (give or take), and there are thousands upon thousands of kanji.  I recently finished learning the katakana symbols and was very excited.  The reason is this: katakana characters are often used to represent foreign words.  So, if you know katakana, you can actually start to read!  Many menus are in katakana.  Yea!  Now, when you sound out the katakana word, it won't sound exactly equivalent to an English counterpart, but it's generally close enough to make a pretty good guess.  And that's why I was excited to learn the katakana symbols!  Since then, I have also finished learning the hiragana symbols!  Now, on to kanji!! ;-)

Tatami Mat Floors
Many traditional Japanese homes have rooms with tatami mat floors.  Tatami mats are several inches deep, so they aren't just like a bath mat or something. They are basically tightly woven straw/rush/grass/I don't know what mats. They are fairly soft floors, and you have to be careful to take good care of them. You don't wear slippers on a tatami floor and if you sleep on a futon, you fold it up and put it away to keep it from molding on the tatami. 

Well this week my old tatamis were taken away and fixed up with new straw/rush/grass/I don't know what. So, they are nice and clean! Aaaaahhhh. They even feel softer now. I was also surprised to find that fresh tatamis are green! Just in case you aren't sure, the old tatami is the picture to the left, and the new is to the right. :-). I'm pretty excited about new tatamis! The only unusual thing is that my apartment now smells a little like a barn. It's a good thing tatamis are common here - I would hate to have visitors wondering why they smelled hay in my house!  

There now, don't you feel educated!


Sharon said...

So how did you manage to get new tatami and a new door all a once??? Maybe at Christmas the smell will remind you of the Bethlehem stable. I love your informative blogs, also, as it gives me a way to travel where I have never been,. Love you bunches and so proud of you, dear one.

Elizabeth said...

As is usually the case, I have no idea how I got new tatami and fresh doors! But I'm happy!

aquamaureen said...

Does this mean that someone came into your apartment while you were away, and swapped out your floors??? ARe there tatami elves that do such things???

and what is this new door Sharon is talking about????