How the Japanese “Tatami mat” culture translates into their cleanliness
Cleanliness, it is said is next to Godliness among many tongues and faiths, though I struggle to see how that view is practiced in my home country Ghana; a nation with more than 70% of her population professing to worshiping a clean Omnipotent God, yet we do otherwise as if the Omnipotent God we serve is not Omniscient as well to know when we empty our bins into flooded gutters at dawn anytime it rains heavily.
Well, for the Japanese, cleanliness is not only next to Godliness, it is Godliness itself and practiced indeed.
One impressive manner that will welcome you on reaching any home in Japan is the “outside shoes remain outside” phenomenon. Gladly, I didn’t find it strange because it is also a reverred gesture in Ghana; one that depicts courtesy when you don’t enter into another’s home with your shoes.
However I had a different understanding and thinking when the ‘REMOVE YOUR SHOES’ practice transcended homes to Churches, Hospitals, Schools, some Offices and restaurants and even all children’s playgrounds I visited in Japan.
I then thought, there must be something central underpinning this practice other than the cleanliness maxim.
Alas I found it, it was an ancient Japanese culture of the TATAMI MATS.
The tatami mats are a traditional flooring material, woven of the rush grass around rice straw , though contemporary tatami mats have some compressed wood chip boards or polystyrene foam cores.
They are very delicate mats as such every attempt is made to reduce dust or filth on them hence the etiquette of keeping outside shoes out, is enforced everywhere so the longevity of the mat is enhanced to the later.
It is an open secret that in Japan, most public places and homes do not have chairs as seats but the cultural tatami mats in which everyone sits comfortably without murmuring to themselves ‘a chair or a stool could have been better’.
I conferred with myself saying if “if preserving traditional mats can go a large extent to keep alive a culture of impeccable cleanliness, even to the discomfort of foreigners, then surely Ghana can be a better place if we are to wear some of our cultural dictates as pride and even make constitutional rules that will reflect and entrench them”.
Kindly let me explain with my little brain how upholding some cultural practices like the Japanese tatami mats can transform the society: let’s begin from the days of evening folklore that told stories about virtues and vices, to conversations rich in proverbs that centered on hardwork through to the “I am because you are” culture of Ubuntu and oneness we had in the ‘traditional Ghana’, etc; they could serve the below purposes.
* Our puberty rites if revised and enforced could curb indecency and sexual immorality.
* Publicly reverencing the ‘greyed haired’ and celebrating their toils to succeed, will end the era of quick money and insolent display of opulence; as the youth will understand that life itself is a “MARATHON” and not a “SPRINT” as such they will live life, a stage at a time and not engage in “sakawa”.
Thank you for joining me to eschew uncouth language, quick money, disregard for the elderly’s advise, immorality etc among the Ghanaian youth through revisiting folklore, puberty rites, proverbs and our other beneficial and relevant cultural practices we held on to yesteryears in Ghana, as the tatami mats of yesteryears have instilled in the Japanese a culture of impeccable cleanliness and wiped even specks of dusts from homes.
(I AM THE GHANAIAN villager that came to Japan)
#lessons from the Japanese TATAMI MATS
#exhibition of our cultures can transform the society
#take me to the olden Ghana when decency, hard work, politeness and patience were key virtues
#the Ghanaian villager that came to Japan