KUMAMOTO — Photos showing 100 different yoga poses taken by a model while laying down on a tatami mat have been uploaded to a special website established by an organization promoting the tatami industry in southwestern Japan.
The project was launched late October by the Yatsushiro Tatami promotion council, which consists of companies and business communities involved in soft rush and tatami businesses in the Yatsushiro district of Kumamoto Prefecture, known as one of Japan’s largest producers of rush and tatami products.
Its “Yatsushiro Gorone Collection,” literally meaning a collection of someone stretched out on the floor, describes tatami mats as floor coverings that “welcome people regardless of how they appear outside, and offer relief.”
2011 International Yoga Asana Champion and yoga instructor Yukari Miwa came up with the various poses — including the “gecko,” which loosens the hip joints by crawling on the tatami mat and the “shachihoko,” which stretches out the whole body.
The website includes a comment from Hiroshi Morita, an agricultural professor studying rushes at the University of Kitakyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture, saying, “The fragrance of vanillin (contained in tatami rush material) has a calming effect.” He is promoting the use of tatami mats for relaxation as people spend more time at home due to the spread of the coronavirus.
More than 90% of Japan’s rushes are cultivated in Kumamoto Prefecture, which also produces most tatami items. According to the promotion council, however, rush producers have declined severely, from 10,000-plus in 1972 to 461 in 2017. The organization explained, “Even in western-style rooms, they can be introduced as portable tatami mats. We would like to continue actively suggesting a lifestyle with tatami mats and revitalize the rush industry.”
(Japanese original by Kotaro Yamada, Kumamoto Bureau)