Why we were told not to step on the edge of tatami mat

So you were told not to step on the edge of tatami mat at our zendo and wondering why. Rev Ito told me that because the edge was more expensive to repair. I researched a bit more to find out the reasons why people were told not to step on the edge of the tatami mat.

  • Wear and tear: Tatami mat is delicate and especially the edge (tatami-fuchi) can easily get damaged.
  • Respect & honor: In Japan, there is an unspoken rule about where people should seat. For example, in our zendo, where rev Ito used to sit is considered as “seat of honor” or “top seat”. Usually these seats are offered to elders & guests to honor. The seat closest to the door/entrance is considered the “bottom seat”. Old days, the edge of tatami was used to determine top seat/section and stepping on the line was disrespectful.
  • Family crest: Some tatami mat has a family crest on the edge and it was disrespectful to step on the family crest.
  • Ninja assassination: Ninja used to hide under the house(crawl space)/below tatami to assassinate and they can determine where people were by looking at the light coming through the gap between tatami.  We don’t have ninja(s) hiding in our zendo so no worries.

Now we know.

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