When was the last time you looked at your dining room carpet and thanked God for the anti-skid little rubbery thingies on the underside of the carpet? If you are living in the U.S., probably never. But for those of us living in Japan, finding a carpet we like that won’t cause us to slip and slide to our deaths is right up there with finding real Doritos not imported from Taiwan or Australia or tasting like cheap Mexican food.
Even though I have lived in Japan 16 years, it is still a mystery to me why there is no anti-skid coating on the bottom of 98% of carpets and rugs here. Perhaps one reason in the multi-purpose usage of rooms. Many people will use a tatami (straw mat) room to hang out with guests during the day, then turn it into a bedroom at night. I guess having a sturdy carpet with anti-skid coating would be hard to put away at night when you pull out the futons. That is why most Japanese carpets to me look more like glorified blankets. Perhaps this is a reason, and perhaps it makes sense. Perhaps not. Yeah, it doesn’t.
Like I said, if you are lucky enough to find a real, honest to gosh sturdy carpet with anti-skid coating on the bottom, I would advise you buy one for each room, because you are not guaranteed to ever find one again. In all my years, I have only found one that I like, and it was a hundred bucks. I bought it and have no regrets, other than I wish I had bought more. The other 24 or so times that have necessitated me buying a carpet for either my tatami rooms or rooms with wooden floors, I did what all Japanese people do–buy that annoying anti-skid rubber mat stuff sold separately. Even then, I still feel the ground shifting under my feet when I work out in the mornings. Jumping jacks and skaters take on a whole new meaning on Japanese carpets…
I could write a whole blog about anti-skid mats. First of all, you gotta buy enough to cover the entire area of the carpet. If you don’t, the teensy weensy areas where you don’t put it could cause you to slide and break your neck. Usually, you can’t find the exact size, so you have to cut it (usually badly in my case), which causes it to stick out from under the carpet in some places, which is really hard for me to look at, and be too short in some places, which again, could cause you to break your neck. The only solution to keeping it from sticking out is to double up in some places, which causes a lump in the carpet, or to cut it again (always badly in my case). And, if miracles of miracles you are able to measure and place it on the floor perfectly in the exact size and shape of the carpet, it will without a doubt shift when you try to place the carpet on top. It will also shift as you walk on it, once again causing it to stick out and be hard to look at, or cause you to break your neck.
Then there is the incredible mess that accumulates under the carpet and all the gunk that gets stuck in the anti-skid rubber mats. Usually the mat looks kinda like a net, and all kinds of food gets stuck in it, especially if you have kids who eat sembei rice crackers or others crumby foods near the carpet. I always wonder how they are actually able to get the crumbs under the carpet. It is some kind of childlike magic…anyway, when you vacuum the carpet, if you have the courage to lift up the carpet and vacuum the mats, they will invariably be crumbled up under the carpet and full of crumbs. If you have the courage to take them out, shake them outside, and put them back, you have returned to our original problem–placing the mats in the exact right place under the carpet without causing carpet lumps, unsightly mats peeking out from under the carpet, or unwelcome falls.
Which forces me to ask the question. Wouldn’t this all be unnecessary if the carpets just had anti-skid coating from the beginning? Do Japanese people ever ask this question? Or is it only the foreigners frustrated spending too much our short lives on the earth dealing with carpet issues? If I ever become rich, one of the first things I will do is buy expensive IKEA or Costco anti-skid carpets for every room in my house. We are buying a house now, and the first thing I will do is make one room into a gym, and cover the floor with sturdy rubber mats. I am so looking forward to working out for the first time in all my years here without wondering if jumping jacks will injure me. Of course, the benefits of Japan far outweigh the annoyances. I can put up with the dangerous carpets since I have such good access to cheap health care, which is my all-time favorite thing about Japan. Besides, if my carpet causes me to break my neck, I can always use my great health insurance to pay for it.