Young Morita, the tatami-maker off Kappabashi, doesn’t give the family business much time. He says, In 10 or 20 years there will be no tatami in Japan. This is what people want. He goes to the back and pulls out a synthetic blue carpet tile. Fifty centimetres square, he says, matter-of-factly. He holds it up. It looks horrible. He doesn’t seem to think so. Yep it’s going to be this. Or veneer flooring.

tatami drawing on mat

So now he mostly lays carpet. He makes only six or 10 tatami a month. He’s not indignant. That’s how it is, he seems to say. The whole street is shuttering up. People are moving out. Or they are moving into the new apartment blocks, and they don’t want tatami there. Maybe in the countryside tatami will continue, they have computerised factories. Just put in all the numbers and they punch them out. But the machines and tools we use here are no longer being made.

He displays a curious mixture of friendliness and disinterest. He takes the time to talk to you, at the end of his strenuous job, about the straw cores being replaced by polystyrene, the two different grades of weaving and materials for cheap apaato or more pricey mansion. He charges about 20,000 yen for a mat, or 10,000 to re-cover one.

Then he says, I’ve got to go now, and disappears behind a door beside the open garage front.

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