Learn English – Are there similar expressions to the Japanese saying “I want to die on a tatami mat”


Today most people die in a hospital bed, though many would prefer to die in their own home being watched over by their loving family.

We have an old saying, “to die on a tatami mat”, meaning to die peacefully in one’s own home — as opposed to dying miserably and bedridden in a hospital while being distressed by the presence of tubes supplying oxygen and nutrients as if one was trussed up with some sort of monstrous spaghetti.

For reference, tatami is a floor mat made of woven rush which you may find in most Japanese houses. (The size of a room is quantified in terms of the number of tatamis, e.g. a 6-tatami room or a 12-tatami room.)

“To die on a tatami mat” originally meant “to end a peaceful life” without being subjected to such perils as war, fighting, fires, earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons as are rife in this country. By extension, we call a reckless person “a fellow who is unable to die on a tatami mat.”

I associate “aging in place”, a term which I understand is current these days, with “dying on a tatami mat.” But the connotation is not the same.

Are there any English-language expressions that are similar to the Japanese saying “I want to die on a tatami mat”?

Best Answer

Different cultures are often difficult to map to each other, but the most likely equivalent is die in my own bed.

Agosto, I want to die in my own bed, in my own house.

Succession, Joyce Carlow

“I am doing nothing wrong. We are not breaking the law,” she said. “What alternative do I have? The other methods, to my knowledge, are either illegal or I would need to go to [the Dignitas clinic in] Switzerland, and I want to die in my own bed.”

Guardian 19 October 2014, quoting Jean Davies who committed suicide by starvation.

I saw you could live and furnish with grace
Even a lion's den, if you've no other place.
I don't even mind to die alone, to be dead,
But I want to die in My own bed.

I want to die in my own bed, Yehuda Amichai, translated from the Hebrew by Barbara and Benjamin Harshav