tatami craftsman (Okawa, Fukuoka Prefecture) Naoki Ishibashi
The area around Okawa is known for the production of igusa, a type of rush used to weave the covering for tatami mats. Igusa is grown in marshy areas and after harvesting, it is treated with mud to prevent discoloration and give it its distinctive color and smell.
Around 80 percent of the igusa used in Japan is grown in China, but the material that Ishibashi uses for his tatami coverings is all grown in Japan. Ishibashi, who partners with Isao Soejima Shoten, which plans and designs igusa mats, rugs, furniture and sundries, designed the distinctive black tatami with red edging used at Happo-en’s Hakuho banquet hall.