Ferocious Dragon Created Using Traditional Japanese Tatami Mats

Dragon Tatami Mat by Kenze Yamada

Tatami mats have been a part of Japanese homes for centuries. Once reserved for nobility, they became a standard part of traditional homes in the 17th century. While today tatami mats aren't quite as common, one man is taking tradition and transforming it into art. Kenze Yamada is a tatami artist who creates incredible images with his mats. Working out of a specialty store in Gifu prefecture, he's been commissioned by hotels and temples across Japan to bring his signature look to their floors.

One of his most popular creations has been a powerful dragon face created with tatami. Yamada has taken the layers of soft rush, or igusa straw, and cut pieces allowing the face of the dragon to emerge. This tatami was commissioned by a Buddhist temple and Yamada spent four months creating it. The result is stunning; a fierce and powerful dragon takes up the entire floor with its teeth changing color from white to gold, depending on how you look at it.

The number of pieces used to create the dragon also has special significance. Knowing that the tatami was destined for a Buddhist temple, Yamada used 108 pieces to create the dragon's face. In Japan, this number represents the number of earthly temptations one must overcome to reach nirvana. He also used an additional 49 pieces for the surroundings. That number is noteworthy because it's the number of days it takes for a deceased person's soul to be evaluated to see where it will go in the afterlife.

Contemporary Tatami Mat

While Yamada's dragon is certainly impressive, it isn't his only innovative tatami. He's also created hexagonal tatami tiles called “infinite tatami.” These tiles allow tatami to easily be installed in spaces that aren't rectangular—the form tatami is regularly sold as. He's used these pieces to create a Marilyn Monroe portrait and a skull, among others.

Interestingly, tatami art began as just a hobby for Yamada. While his family owned a tatami shop, he was working in another field. Then, one day, he decided to create a design for fun. This hobby soon turned serious and now he's bringing this tradition into the 21st century with his unique vision.

Kenze Yamada is a fifth-generation tatami craftsman.

Kenze Yamada Tatami Artist

His tatami art is a contemporary twist on tradition.

Contemporary Tatami Mats by Kenze Yamada

This stunning dragon tatami was created for a Buddhist temple.

Dragon Tatami Mat by Kenze Yamada

It's made of 157 pieces and took four months to create.

Dragon Tatami Mat by Kenze Yamada

He also created hexagonal tiles called “infinite tatami.”

Infinite Tatami by Kenze Yamada

These tiles can be used in innovative ways.

Marilyn Monroe Portrait Tatami Mat Skull Tatami Matt by Kenze Yamada

Yamada's creations show that tatami can truly be a work of art.

Dragon Tatami Mat by Kenze Yamada Dragon Tatami Mat by Kenze Yamada

Want to see more? Watch him create his iconic dragon tatami.

Kenze Yamada: Website | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube
h/t: [Grape]

All images via Kenze Yamada.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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