和室 Washitsu–Japanese-style room

Our house, although modern, has one traditional Japanese-style room.

This room can be used for sleeping, and then when all the bedding is rolled up and put away in the closet, as a general living area, for eating, reading, etc. It is a pleasant, uncluttered and calming space, with little or no furniture. In our case, this is not just tradition; we don’t (yet) own any chairs or a bed, so sitting and sleeping on the floor is our only option.

Bedding in the closet

The flooring is made of tatami mats. These are rectangular woven straw mats that present a slightly yielding surface to stand, sit or lie on, smooth and cool to the touch. Footwear is not worn in a Japanese-style room. The dogs are not supposed to come in here, in case they damage the floor or the paper doors.

As well as being a floor-covering, the tatami mat is a standard unit of measure of floor area. For example, this room is 4.5 tatami in size. The standard is different between Osaka and Tokyo, but our mats are around 180cm x 90cm.

The ceiling is lined with wood panelling, and the walls with some kind of cork-board.

The sliding doors to the rest of the house, and to the closet, are decorated with screen-prints showing a relaxing scene of trees in the mist. These sliding doors can be easily lifted out and put aside, opening up the space.

There are paper screen doors to the outside. In a traditional house these would lead to a beautiful  scene of a secluded garden with raked gravel, bonsai trees and moss-covered rocks. In our house it just leads onto the car-parking space, noisy children playing in the street, and a view of the neighbours’ houses across the street.

Some of the paper panels were damaged when we arrived. The landlord refused to repair them on the basis that our dogs would probably damage them again.

I intend to repair them using this roll of paper that cost 348円 from the local hardware store.

Actually there are four layers of door: the paper screens, the glass sliding door, a mesh screen and a metal roller-shutter.

Note on the word of the day:

The word washitsu consists of the kanji 和 wa, which is a very old word for Japan, and 室 shitsu meaning room. Wa is used as a prefix in words like washoku–Japanese food, wafuku –Japanese-style clothes, etc., to distinguish from 洋 you meaning western, as in youshoku, youfuku, etc.

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