Choosing the Best Japanese Futon Mattress: All You Need to Know
Depending on where you were raised, you may have a different understanding of what a futon is. If you're thinking about purchasing a futon of your own, it may not be immediately obvious what to look for. If you're interested in an actual Japanese futon, we'll go over all you need to know about them so you can fully comprehend what they are and what a futon can accomplish for you.
You'll discover everything about Japanese futons, including how they are created, the health advantages of converting to one, how they can enhance a minimalist lifestyle, and where to purchase one for yourself.
1. What is a Futon?
A futon, also known as a shikibuton in Japanese, is a traditional type of bedding system used in Japan for sleeping on the ground. The system includes a base, known as the shikibuton, the futon mattress, which is typically stuffed with cotton, a comforter or blanket known as kakebuton or moku, and a pillow called makura that is often filled with beans or foam. However, the term futon is also commonly used to refer to just the mattress.
Japanese futons are traditionally placed on a tatami floor, which is a type of matting made of rice straw or wood chips, that is comfortable to sleep on and retains heat. However, for those who do not have a tatami floor, tatami mats can be used as a substitute. The futon mattress is soft and flexible which makes it easy to fold and store away during the day. It is also considered to be a space-saving option for small living spaces.
In western countries, the term "futon" is often used to describe a pull-out sofa bed or a wooden bed base "futon frame" that is low to the ground. This can be quite different from the traditional Japanese futon, also known as a shikibuton, which is a bedding system that includes a base, mattress, comforter or blanket, and pillow.
While the traditional Japanese futon is typically placed on a tatami floor and is made of cotton, the Western version of the futon is often made of synthetic materials and is placed on a metal or wooden frame.
Despite the differences, both the traditional Japanese futon and the Western version of the futon share one common characteristic: the ability to save space in a room. They are perfect for small apartments, studios, or as a spare sleeping space for guests. The minimalist design and functionality make them an excellent option for those who want to maximize space and functionality in their home.
2. Where Do Futon Come From?
The history of the futon in Japan is extensive, with records dating back as far as the early Japanese civilization. In the early days, beds were made of mats woven from hemp, called mushiro, which were placed on the floor with a softer mat on top. This evolved during the Nara period of the 8th century, when layers of straw mat were used to increase comfort, leading to the development of the tatami flooring we know today. Those of higher rank would also include soft zabuton-style cushions on top of the straw mats for added comfort. Over time, the mattress became more commonly used on top of the tatami flooring or mats, and were folded away during the day, similar to the way they are used today.
The Western style of futon, which raises the sleeper off the floor, was designed by William Brouwer from Boston in the 1970s, specifically to accommodate the small apartments prevalent in the United States. These mattresses were thicker and softer than their Japanese counterparts and were placed on wooden slats to create a sofa bed. This style of the futon is still popular in the West today, with a wide variety of designs available. The preference for thicker mattresses has even influenced the Japanese market, leading to a greater variety of mattress sizes being offered.
3. How Are Futon Made?
Japanese futon mattresses, also known as shikibuton in Japan, are a traditional and functional type of bedding system that has been in use for centuries. These mattresses are typically two to three inches thick, made with cotton, and are designed to be pliable and easy to roll up and store during the day. The craftsmanship and attention to detail that goes into making these mattrearees is a key factor in their longevity, with a lifespan of around fifteen years, which is longer than the average western mattress.
In addition to the mattress itself, the futon bedding system also includes a base (shikibuton), a comforter or blanket (kakebuton or moku), and a pillow (makura) that is often filled with beans or foam. These materials are typically made with cotton, which is not only comfortable but also environmentally friendly compared to other options. The use of natural materials like cotton ensures that the futon is a durable and long-lasting option for sleeping. Furthermore, the futon is designed to be placed on a tatami floor, which is comfortable and retains heat, making it an ideal option for those who want to sleep in the traditional Japanese style of sleeping on the floor.
Foam futon mattresses are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to traditional cotton-stuffed futons because of the superior comfort and support they provide. However, one potential downside of foam futons is that they can be more difficult to store as they do not roll up as easily as cotton-stuffed futons.
It's also important to note that while futons may be seen as a more cost-effective option in Western countries, it's essential to remember that investing in a high-quality futon is a wise decision when it comes to your sleeping comfort and overall health. After all, we spend a significant portion of our lives in bed, so it's important to choose a bed that offers good support for your back and uses breathable fabrics. Japanese futons are well-known for their superior craftsmanship and attention to detail, meaning they can offer good support and last for many years.
4. How to Use a Futon?
Futon mattresses, traditionally used in Japan, are a popular alternative to traditional Western mattresses. They are made of cotton and are two to three inches thick, making them pliable and easy to roll up during the day. They are designed to last around fifteen years, which is a longer lifespan than your average western mattress, and this is down to the craftsmanship involved. The mattresses have to be well made to make sure the sleeper is well supported and comfortable.
When setting up your futon, it is recommended to place it on a soft surface such as tatami mats or a carpet. Place your pillow and comforter on top, and you have your futon ready to use. During the day, it's a good idea to roll up your futon and store it in a convenient location, such as a closet. If storage space is an issue, you can also purchase a slightly raised wooden frame which removes the need for a tatami mat, and also ensures that the futon mattress has good air circulation.
To maintain the quality of your futon, it's important to air it in the sunlight regularly and to dry it in the fresh air outside after washing. You can also purchase a futon dryer for damper months, which fits under the futon and air dries it. Additionally, it is traditional to beat the futon regularly with a futon tataki, similar to a carpet beater, to get rid of dust.
5. What are the Environmental Benefits of Futons?
Futon mattresses, traditionally used in Japan, are known for their durability and comfort. One of the key factors that contribute to their longevity is the use of high-quality, natural materials. The stuffing inside the mattress, as well as the cover, is typically made of 100% cotton. This not only makes the futon comfortable and supportive but also environmentally friendly. Unlike synthetic materials such as polyester and foam, cotton is biodegradable and will decompose naturally at the end of its useful life, rather than contributing to landfills for centuries to come.
6. How Can a Futon Bed Benefit Your Health?
Many individuals are opting for futons over traditional beds and mattresses for more than just their aesthetic appeal and convenience. One of the main reasons for this shift is the potential health benefits that come with sleeping on a firmer surface. A firm futon can help align the spine while sleeping, which can alleviate existing back pain or prevent future back pain from developing.
Additionally, pregnant women have reported that sleeping on a futon can be more comfortable as it can be customized with extra layers to accommodate for any changes in the body. The flexibility of futons allows for easy adjustments to ensure proper support and comfort during all stages of pregnancy. Furthermore, futons made of 100% cotton are environmentally friendly and biodegradable, making them a sustainable option for those who are conscious of their impact on the environment.
7. Can I Use a Futon if My Home Doesn’t Have Tatami?
When it comes to choosing a futon, one of the key considerations is the type of flooring you'll be placing it on. While traditional tatami mats are the ideal surface for a futon, they are not always an option, especially if you don't have a tatami room. In these cases, it's important to think about the thickness of the futon base, as this can provide additional cushioning and comfort. Many people choose to purchase a thicker futon base to provide a softer, more comfortable sleeping surface, especially if you're placing your futon on a hard surface like tile or hardwood. Additionally, some people choose to add an extra layer of cushioning, such as a camping mat, to provide even more comfort. The great thing about a futon is that you can always add extra layers later, depending on your needs and preferences.
8. Can I Use a Futon on a Bed Frame?
A bed frame can be a great alternative for those who do not have traditional tatami mats or soft flooring in their homes. Using a low platform bed can provide added comfort and support for the futon mattress, while also ensuring proper air circulation. This is important as proper air circulation can help to prolong the life of the futon mattress by preventing mold and mildew growth. Additionally, a bed frame can provide added storage space underneath the bed, which can be a great option for those with limited storage space in their homes. Furthermore, a bed frame can also provide a more elevated and elevated sleeping experience, which can be beneficial for individuals with back pain or other health concerns. Overall, a bed frame can be a great option for those looking for a more modern and functional take on the traditional futon setup.
9. What Bedding Accessories Do I Need for My Futon?
As we mentioned earlier, the word futon in Japanese technically refers to a complete bedding system consisting of a floor mattress, sheet, comforter, and pillow. However, many people also use the term to refer specifically to the mattress portion of the system.
10. Can I Use My Current Bedding on a Futon Mattress?
When it comes to sheets and comforters for your futon, it's important to consider the size of your mattress. Japanese bed measurements are slightly different from those in other countries, so it's important to check that your current comforter is wider than your futon. This is because Japanese mattresses tend to be a bit narrower than those in other countries. Additionally, you should consider purchasing a fitted sheet made specifically for Japanese futon mattresses to ensure maximum comfort and a perfect fit. Keep in mind that while the size of the sheets and comforters are important, you should use the pillow of your preference as everyone has different preferences when it comes to pillows.
11. Are Futon Good for Children?
Children love futon beds because they can play safely on them when they are awake and there is no risk of them falling over while they are asleep. On the other hand, a futon should never be used to leave a baby alone.
12. What to Look for When Choosing a Japanese Futon?
The measurements of a single tatami mat are used to determine a variety of futon sizes, which vary slightly from standard mattress sizes around the world. The single size is the most popular and is 100cm across and 210cm long (3912" wide x 8212" long). The width of a double futon in Japanese size is 140 cm, or 55 inches, but the length is the same.
It's time to think about the materials after choosing the futon size. A variety of synthetic textiles are available for less expensive futon, and due to the comfort and support they provide, foam futon mattresses have grown in popularity recently. However, because they do not fold and roll up as readily as a typical futon, they are challenging to store. Additionally, they have a much worse environmental impact than traditional cotton futon.
13. Where to Buy a Japanese Futon?
Japanese futons can be purchased from a variety of retailers including online marketplaces, furniture stores, and specialized Japanese home goods retailers. Some popular online retailers that sell Japanese futons include Amazon, Wayfair, and Zonli Home. Additionally, there are also many local and independent retailers that sell Japanese futons, so it's worth checking out your local home goods stores or searching online for "Japanese futons" in your area.
14. How Do I Clean my Futon?
When it comes to maintaining the cleanliness and longevity of a Japanese futon, proper care and cleaning are essential. One of the most effective ways to keep a futon fresh and hygienic is to regularly air it out by hanging it over a balcony or rack in a well-ventilated area. This allows for the release of any trapped moisture and dust particles that may have accumulated over time. If it is not possible to air out the futon, investing in a handheld mattress cleaner, such as those available on Amazon, can be a convenient alternative.
Traditionally, Japanese people would beat their futons regularly with a tool called a futon tataki, which is similar to a carpet beater, to get rid of dust and debris. For a more modern approach, a futon dryer can be used to keep dust, mites, and mold at bay.
Lastly, it is important to rotate and flip the futon regularly to ensure even wear and prolong its lifespan. By following these simple care and cleaning techniques, your Japanese futon can provide many years of comfortable and healthy sleep.
15. How Do I Store My Futon?
When not in use, it's essential to store your futon properly to ensure its longevity and maintain its cleanliness. The traditional way of storing a futon is by folding it into thirds and placing it in a closet or in a corner of the room. This not only frees up valuable space in your home, but it also prevents moisture from accumulating, which can lead to mold and mildew growth. Even if you have tatami mats or a futon pad in place, it's still crucial to move and store your futon to keep it in good condition. Proper storage also helps to prevent dust, mites, and other allergens from settling in the futon. It's a good idea to invest in a futon cover to protect the futon from dust and other debris when it's not in use. Additionally, it's recommended to rotate and flip your futon regularly to ensure even wear over time.