What is Tatami Omote?

Many of the homes in Japan still have a tatami room. Though the rooms vary in size and furnishings, all of them have one thing in common. They all use the traditional rice straw floormats, which are about two inches thick, called tatami mats. Tatami omote is the thin outer covering, made of a soft rush material, that is sewn onto the thick rice straw base of the tatami mat. When the cover wears out it is replaced with new tatami omote. Tatami omote is divided by quality into four grades. The highest grade is tokutokujo, next is tokujo, then jo, and lastly the nami grade. The tokutokujo mats are most frequently used in shrines, temples, government buildings, and homes of the very wealthy. The tokujo and jo grade mats are the ones most commonly found in everyday use.

The used tatami omote has become the target of choice for tameshigiri in Japan, and the United States. Tatami omote is not made of rice straw as many people think. It is made from the stems of a soft rush (juncus effusus) that grows in wetland areas. The stems are collected, cleaned, dried, and tightly woven to make a thin, soft mat. The choice of this traditional material over other materials to make targets for tameshigiri offers an important benefit. Mats made from other, more coarse materials, can scratch the polish on a sword or dull the cutting edge. The ground-in dirt that is found in used mats can also act as a fine abrasive when cutting. Mugen Dachi mats are brand new, have never been used, and do not pose an increased risk for scratching your sword.

Most people who have done tameshigiri with rolled tatami omote have probably used the worn out pieces of the tokujo and jo grades. One problem with the used tatami is that you never know what grade of mat you will get, or whether or not you will get mats that are lightly used or ones that are almost worn through. The bigger problem with used tatami is the leftover grit which can scratch your sword or dull the edge. The tatami omote we provide is the nami grade. The quality of the new nami mats we offer is very similar in cutting density to the majority of the lightly worn used mats we have practiced with over the years. One big advantage in using our tatami omote is that the targets will consistently cut the same, because the quality of the mats does not vary. The mats are very clean to work with when rolling targets and they soak up water very quickly. Our nami grade mats provide an excellent combination of high quality, low cost, and good availability.

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