Why you should not step on edges of Tatami mat

There are many interesting rules you encounter in Japan. As a Japanese myself, growing in a Christian family, I was always wonder why you should respect weird customs that no one would seem to care of. Whether it is reasonable or not today, I found out where those manners came from.

What does it mean?

When you go to a temple and look around inside, you will never avoid waling on Tatami mats. If your guide values manners good enough, you are told not to stand on the edge of Tatami.

But why? Is there a sign that says policy? No, I cannot see it... Some cafes have a sign of "One drink system," meaning each customer needs to order one drink. This is brilliant by the way, let's support their business, shall we?

It's my face!

The story goes back to Heian period (794-1185) when the noble women wore 12-layer kimono, and noblemen put an Eboshi hat on their heads in the court.

The color and pattern of the edge were different depending on your class. This means the edge represents his status or family, a face. So, stepping on it is connected to the act you are putting your feet on their pride. In other words, you can pay your respects for them by not doing so.

Don't get stabbed!

There is another view that you should avoid stepping on them.

Buke-yashiki, or samurai-residence, was full of danger. If you have seen Samurai movie, you may know Ninja sneaking under the floor to kill a powerful Daimyo leader. In those times, they were busy getting a head each other. Without the head one could not have enough evidence to show he actually killed him.

Tatami floor is made by placing multiple tatami, we still describe a room size with a number of them. A 6-tatami room is equivalent to 10㎡, a regular size for a single person to stay in Japan.

So, now you know what would happen if you are obsessed with taking picture on the edge. It is a great chance for your enemy to insert his sword to get you!

I don't think not-stepping itself can save you, but I can say it is safer to cross quickly.

Those too?

I wrote about Tatami, but there are more you should not step on: Threshold of a gate, an entrance, a room where wooden bars are installed and often have a groove.

The reason is the same as the first one: to pay the respect. In addition, those threshold are considered a sacred boundary separating outside and inside world or master and servant.

Hope those trivia make your trip more exciting!


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