Let me start off by saying that I really like my apartment. I love the mix of traditional eastern style and modern western style. When I signed for this apartment, I thought “Man this is gonna be awesome!” and for the most part it is. However one incident changed my completely flowery perception of my Japanese apartment.
I was just doing my daily routine just like I always do…working coming home and sleeping, trying to get in my 4 days of training (not lately though…I’m getting a bit fat…just being honest). I got home, changed my clothes, and thought that I might go out later that evening. So I opened the shoe cabinet near the front door to take out my freshest pair of shoes…
When I opened the cabinet…there was nothing fresh about any of it…there was mold on every single pair of my shoes…there was even mold on the soles of my shoes…mold everywhere. Some of the mold was really thick , too. GAG!!I I wanted to throw all my shoes in the garbage, but knowing my shoe size isn’t the easiest one to get a hold of here in Japan, I decided against it. I had to thoroughly clean every nook and cranny of every pair of shoes that was in that cabinet.
I thought to myself “Wait, if there’s mold here, is there mold in other places around the apartment?” Feeling half-panicked, half-disgusted, I started looking. There was mold in the dirty clothes hamper, some of my clothes hanging in my closet felt unusually damp. Disgusted I snatched all kinds of clothes out of my closet: button up shirts, t-shirts, sweaters, the works. Then I opened the door to the tatami* room. I looked down, and thought whew “Only dust.” I searched my bedroom closet and more damp clothes! AAAAARRRRRGGHHHHH!!! I don’t think I’ve ever washed so many clothes in my life.
*Tatami is a straw mat that is used as flooring in traditional-style, Japanese homes and in some Japanese apartments. Tatami was once a material made exclusively for the wealthy and nobility…not anymore, jack! (cuz I for darn sure ain’t a nobleman, and for super darn sure ain’t wealthy, lol )
Then I looked a little more closely at the tatami mat. “Hold up!” Upon closer examination I realized that the dust had a funny color to it, light grayish-green. “Heheheh, Japan’s strange even the dust is a weird col…OH SNAP!! THAT’S MOLD!!!”
My bed is in the center of the room (off of the floor, luckily). On the far side of the bed, the area where I don’t walk very much, there was mold at the base of the wall and all over the tatami.
I felt awful. I didn’t even want to sleep in my apartment that night. Since coming to Japan, I have really made an effort to keep my place as clean as I can. In my old apartment I never worried about mold. This was going to take some maintenance.
I wanted to start with the tatami first because it seemed like that was where most of the mold was. How do you clean a tatami mat?!? I emailed my friend Naomi, to ask that very question. This is what I was told:
Step One: Take a Dry cloth and Wipe any any dust (or in my case, mold)
Step Two: Because I was dealing with mold I went over the tatami floor again with a mixture of very light alcohol and water. I tried to use as little moisture as possible (dry damp) because I’m mold likes damp areas, right?
Step Three: After the tatami dries. Go over the area one more time with a dry cloth. Going in the direction of the grain of the mat.
While I was cleaning I looked at my mat and saw places where the frame of my bed made an impression in the tatami, impressions that are permanent (YIKES!). I’d say this is the second tatami issue.
The final issue with tatami is that it has a scent. On some days, the scent is stronger than normal. It’s not really a big deal for me, but some people don’t like it. I also guess if you have some type of allergy to straw, tatami might not be the best of ideas. As far as mold goes, I don’t think it’s a problem with all tatami mats, that could just be an apartment/humidity thing. But, if it’s not mold, it’ll be dust. So if you have one a tatami floor, regular cleaning is a good idea (I usually clean mine on Fridays or Saturdays).
And if you’re having mold trouble, there’s one other thing I that’s been pretty useful for me:
What else did I do to try to stop the mold monsters from invading my home?
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