Japanese Futons – Everything You Should Know About Traditional Japanese Mattresses

If you are in the market looking for a bed or mattress, it is highly likely that you have come across futons. The term ‘futon’ means a bed in Japanese and it is one of the many borrowings from oriental culture to western culture. If you have small space in your house, a futon is a perfect solution. It is a unique sleeping system consisting of a futon mattress stuffed with cotton, futon frame made of wood, metal and a futon cover to offer protection to the mattress. The futon is popular with people looking for a minimalist lifestyle as it takes little space and you can easily fold it for storage.

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Normal Futon

The Japanese futon is unique and quite different from other variations you find in American stores. The Traditional Shikibuton in the basic form is a slim (4 inches), rectangular cotton-stuffed sleeping cushion. It is a flexible and simple futon than what you will find in the stores. The Japanese futon form part of the minimalist living influenced by Buddhist teachings in Japan. The futon works with a tatami mat (straw mat) spread on the floor to create a solid base. The futon also has a goose feather duvet and pillows, and when not in use, you can fold it up for storage. Japanese futons are eco-friendly as they contain 100% cotton.

Japanese Futon

What Are Japanese Futons?

A Japanese futon is a simple, unassuming traditional bed which is still popular in the country and many other parts of the world. It consists of the “shikibuton” which is similar to a mattress in a traditional bed and consists of 100% cotton.

The “kakebuton” on the other hand is a thick duvet or blanketing which offers comfort and contains hand-pulled silk making it lightweight and efficient in retaining body heat.

There is also a Tatami Mat where the futon mattress rests. The straw mat is tough and supports the entire Japanese Futon.

Next is a Soba Gara Makura a pillow filled with organic buckwheat hull. The Japanese futon, unlike most western style beds, rests on the ground, and when not in use, most people fold it away for storage. It is one of the features of minimalist living which is common across the Orient due to Buddhist influence.

During the day, you will notice futons hanging on cloth lines in Japanese neighborhoods. When the weather changes, these mattresses fold easily for storage in special closets known as “oshiire.” The versatile and flexible nature of the Japanese futon gives a sense of space to the bedroom. If you have limited space in your bedroom, a Japanese futon easily solves the problem.

What are Tatami Mats?

When shopping for a Japanese futon, one of the components you will come across is a tatami mat. It is a platform to support the entire Japanese Futon system making it one of the most crucial components in the entire bed. The mat consists of straw making it solid but comfortable. It is an alternative to a frame, and many people love it because it is eco-friendly and contains natural materials. To maintain the flexibility of the futon, the Tatami Mat is also foldable and you will find it easy to use your bed anywhere in the house.

What is a Shikibuton / Shiki Futon Made Of?

Before you go for a Shikibuton, it is important to understand each component of this versatile sleeping system. It is important to note that unlike an ordinary bed which consists of a frame and mattress, the Shikibuton has several parts which work in unison to provide a comfortable sleeping surface.

The main component is the Shiki Futon made of 100% cotton and measuring 2 to 5 inches. Next is the Kakebuton (The Comforter) which serves as a blanket filled with hand-pulled silk. The Soba Gara makuta or Buckwheat Hull Pillow provides support for the neck and head while the tatami mat is the platform on which the entire bed rests.

Where To Buy a Japanese Futon?

With the popularity of minimalist living across the world, it is now easy to find Japanese in furniture stores. It is even easier to find these mattresses online where you can get incredible discounts and favorable shipping arrangements. You can now go online and compare different types of futons available on major marketplaces.

Proper Care For a Shiki Futon

Like with all traditional based sleeping systems, it is important to provide the best care for your Shiki futon to get the best service. While these mattresses contain natural materials which are durable, you need to provide tender love and care (TLC) to get the best out of your futon. One of the greatest risks to the Shiki futon is moisture because of the cotton material used. Cotton soaks up the moisture from your body and you need to dry the futon regularly to maintain it in the best shape. Such great care also prevents the growth of mold which is a big health risk, especially for allergic people.

Some of the things to consider when caring for Shiki futon include:

Make sure you use your Shikibuton(s) only on a breathable surface preferably a tatami mat.

Flip your Shikibuton(s) after every few days if in use in one place. You should also consider rolling it up and storing it away after drying.

Sun your Shikibuton(s) now and then to give the cotton material a new lease of life. It is a good way to avoid dust mites and mold spores which cause respiratory health problems.

Protect your Shiki futon using a Shikibuton protective cover or pad.

How to Care and Maintain Your Shikibuton?


There are various reasons to buy the Japanese Futon; it is a versatile sleeping system, and its space saving design is perfect for households with limited space. A futon is lightweight and extremely portable making it perfect for temporary sleeping arrangements. It is a safe bed with no off-gassing, and it is economical as well. It is easy to appreciate why more households have invested in Japanese futons when you look at all these advantages. To enjoy these benefits look for a premium product made of high quality and sustainable materials. The support system should also be sturdy, and every component should work towards providing a comfortable sleeping experience.

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