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The Japanese are known for many things, top of the list being a healthy diet and minimalist lifestyle. One of the most common aspects of the minimalist lifestyle is embedded in sleeping habits. It is common to hear stories of how Japanese sleep on the floor, a concept that is hard for the rest of the world to take in. 

Sleep, and everything surrounding it, is on its own level in Japan. Did you know that it is completely normal to sleep anywhere at any time in public in Japan? In fact, the bigger part of the Japanese working population believes that quick naps in between work hours are necessary for productivity. As such, you can find people asleep at work, in commuter trains, on tables in restaurants, and of course, at home. Despite these sleeping habits, studies show that Japan’s workers have the least amount of sleep compared to other regions of the world, thanks to long working hours and long commutes.

What Is a Futon?

The correct answer to this question will depend on where you are. For many people outside of Japan, futon refers to multifunctional furniture, more specifically, a sofa that turns into a bed when the need arises. This sofa-bed is mostly used in rooms that are not very spacious. 

In Japan, a futon refers to a traditional, thin, cotton-filled mattress on which people sleep. The futon is laid on the floor on top of a tatami mat, and covered with a heavy duvet-like covering referred to as kakebuton to make the perfect bed.  Once awake, the futon is aired (if the weather allows) and folded for easier and neat storage.

The futon should be aired daily and fluffed up at least once a month.  Every six months, depending on its prevailing condition, the futon may be re-filled with cotton. A lot of non-Japanese people have reported that the fluffed up futon, coupled with the kakebuton, can be pretty cosy especially in the winter.

The Japanese Bed

The Japanese futon is thinner than the regular mattresses. It is typically 3 or 4 inches thick and is cotton filled compared to the regular foam mattresses. These futons can be folded and stored away, or used as sitting mats. The Japanese bed is not complete without a tatami mat. In Japan, it is pretty common to sit on the floor as opposed to using dining sets or sofas in sitting areas. 

What is a Tatami Mat?

A tatami mat is a frame that holds the mattress (futon) up so that it is not in contact with the floor. The history of tatami shows that it is made of dry, woven reed or grass, which makes it firm yet airy. It adds to the cushioning of the floor bed, in addition to breathability. Cotton is one of the most absorbent natural materials today. As such, aeration is extremely vital to eliminate the buildup of moisture which can lead to the accumulation of bacteria and mildew.

In other parts of the world, it is easy to find a tatami mat made of other materials such as rubber or synthetic foam. The idea is to use a material that is breathable, boosts cushioning and offers firm support.

In addition to being used as a bed frame, traditional tatami mats are also used as flooring options. They are believed to be cool as well as cleaner to the environment.  Since it is breathable, tatami is not prone to attacks from mildew. The mat is usually about 5.5cm thick regardless of the width and length. 

The Japanese Bed Fundamentals

The Japanese bed is made up of 3 main components;

• The shikifuton

• The kakebuton

• The makura

Shikifuton

The shikifuton, which is a term that is sometimes used synonymously with shikibuton, is the thin, cotton-filled mattress mentioned above. It is mostly made of cotton, both the cover and the filling. The casing is also made of woven cotton or the cotton duck weave and is zippered to make it easy to remove when cleaning. While traditional shikifuton is 100% pure cotton, modern variations incorporate other materials such as wool, foam, latex and a myriad of other synthetic options.

The futon is about 4 inches thick, 6 feet long and about half as wide. It is usually the same dimensions as the tatami mat, or slightly smaller. 

Kakebuton

What is kakebuton? This is the primary covering when sleeping. The kakebuton is usually larger than the mattress and is traditionally hand quilted. However, it can also be machine quilted. This comforter is made of a variety of materials, from the affordable cotton and polyester to the expensive silk.

Cotton comforters are warm and cosy. However, they attract dust mites, which can be quite an annoyance especially to people who have allergies. While silk comforters may be a tad expensive, they are hypoallergenic. Additionally, they are known to regulate the bed warmth better through the seasons. Polyester is soon taking over as one of the most used materials to make kakebuton today.

Makura

This is the traditional pillow that goes with the aforementioned components of a typical Japanese bed. The makura is firmer and smaller compared to regular pillows. Traditional makura is filled with buckwheat hulls to make it firm. The aim of this Japanese pillow is to provide adequate support so as to avoid neck pains and tensions. It is also aimed at reducing allergic reactions to various other materials. 

If you want an authentic cultural sleeping experience, makura should be part of your bedding. However, if you are not very particular, you can use any other pillow you find comfortable and convenient for you.

What Is the Best Futon to Sleep On?

Single versus double futon bed – which is better? There are a lot of considerations to have in mind when buying a futon. For starters, your weight may contribute immensely to how comfortable you will be on this thin mattress. As such, you will need to get what works for you. 

There are people who are pressure-sensitive, especially in the hip and shoulder areas. These individuals require soft but firm support. There are those who move a lot when asleep, as well as those who lie on their stomachs, thereby requiring a soft mattress. There are those who sweat a lot and may require additional covers to keep the sweat from accumulating in the futon. If you prefer lying on your back when asleep, you will need firm support. Regardless of your preferences, the goal is to have a soft but firm bed.

 When it comes to traditional cotton filled futons, they may not be everyone’s comfort zone. Most of the people who have used foam mattresses find that the traditional futon is too soft, and one may not be enough. As such, they may have to get another futon to make their double futon bed comfortable to their liking.

Most Japanese are comfortable with a single futon. However, most non-Japanese find one futon too thin for comfort. This is what has increased the popularity of the double futon bed for those who still seek to experience authentic Japanese cultural sleep routine. Those who want to experience sleeping on a mat but find futons too thin may use more than one or get foam mattresses.

How to Buy a Good Futon Mattress

Purchasing a futon is investing in good sleep. Therefore, it is important that you know exactly what you are investing in. Here are some pointers to help you pick a traditional Japanese futon that will be perfect for you.

Consider the size of the futon

Futons are made in different sizes to suit varying needs. The length is usually about 6 feet. The width changes according to the needs of the buyer. For example, there is a futon for a single sleeper, two people, full size, queen size etc. You are at liberty to choose what fits you. It is advisable to pick a bigger size as it is more spacious and comfortable.

Consider the futon filling

Traditionally, futons are 100% cotton, which makes them light, comfortable and easy to roll/fold. A twinset consisting of the mattress, blanket and pillow can weigh about 7kg! Today, futons are available in a variety of filling materials including foam. You can easily find any of these components made in memory foam to help give better support. 

Consider the futon type

Here is the thing, different manufacturers have their idea of what the futon should be or look like regardless of the teaching about Japan design philosophy. This means that you will find a variety of types, shapes, forms and designs when it comes to futons depending on who you are buying from. It is therefore important to define which type suits you best. You can opt for the traditional futon and mat, or the modern sofa-bed futon; whatever suits your fancy.

Consider your preferences

The sleeping space is a personal decision; it has to be comfortable enough for your liking and health. Consider the quality and type of the material of which the beddings are made of. Consider your budget as well and shop around to get the best prices for what you need. Be sure to look round for the best prices for the quality you want.

Japanese Futon Vs Mattress

When it comes to choosing between the sofa-bed futon versus the traditional Japanese futon, there are a few things you need to have in mind. Now that you know futons come in two distinct yet widely differing forms, which one should you go with? Well, here are some brief pointers as to the differences between the two.

1. Comfort

Comfort is the main difference that anyone who has tried the two discovers. Most sofa beds use thick and heavy mattresses that can be a tad hard. In the long run, these hard mattresses tend to contribute to fatigue and back problems. The traditional futon is made of pure cotton, which is soft and adjusts to the body, keeping it comfortable throughout the night. Technology has allowed innovations such as memory foam, which is also comfortable.

2. Hygiene

One of the most important factors that contribute to restful sleep is using clean and fresh bedding. We all know that at night, the body tends to sweat. This moisture, when trapped, can contribute to a myriad of issues such as the growth of bacteria, mildew, moulds and other conditions that cause health problems. Additionally, it gives the bedding a funky, unattractive smell. 

For this reason, it is vital to air beddings and clean sheets regularly. While it is common to see Japanese futons being aired on sunny days, it is not as frequently experienced to see people air out mattresses. Additionally, traditional futons are airy, laid on airy tatami mats. Other mattresses tend to be dense, which holds on to a lot of unwanted substances.

3. Use of Space

Truth be told, both types of futons are made for minimalistic living. The traditional futon can be easily rolled or folded and stored when not in use. The sofa bed can be turned into a seat and used on the same space. If you do not have too much space to accommodate any furniture, the traditional futon should be perfect for such spaces. Additionally, if you are constantly moving from one place to another, a traditional futon makes the moving a lot easier and less bulky compared to the sofa bed futon.

4. Cost vs. your budget

In most cases, the sofa bed futon cost more than the traditional futon, thanks to the extra framework. Now, granted, either can be more expensive than the other depending on the quality of the materials you choose. However, if the quality is constant, the traditional futon will be cheaper.

A simple search online is guaranteed to give you millions of options. This is a good opportunity to look through various online sellers and come up with the design, colours and qualities you’d like for your sleeping area. You also get a chance to compare prices and qualities before making a purchase. It is always advisable to make a purchase from reputable sellers, especially if you are buying online.

How to Take Care of Your Traditional Japanese Futon

There are a few things you can do to keep your futon mattress in top shape. Here are a few suggestions.

• The futons should always be used on a breathable surface such as the tatami mat. You can use your futon on any other platform so long as it is breathable and comfortable.

• The futon should be aired as often as the conditions allow. Additionally, avoid keeping the futon in one position. Flip it at least once every week. You can also roll it up or fold it and store it away. 

• Be sure to air the futon in the sun as often as possible. Be sure to flip it so that both sides equally get a good amount of sun for a few hours. This keeps mites and mildew away and keeps the mattress fresh.

• Always use a protective cover or pad on the futon. This protects the mattress from dust, mites and stains. Additionally, it makes cleaning easy as you can clean the pad as often as you wish to. It is advisable to have an all-cotton protective pad/cover.

• You will notice that the futon will tend to form dips after a few days, especially following the body’s pressure points. You can temporarily solve this by flipping the futon over so that you evenly use both sides. Additionally, it is advisable to “fluff” up the futon once a week or as often as is needed. This involves hanging the futon and “beating” it with a bamboo stick or any other item such as a tennis racket. This exercise stretches the cotton fibres thereby restoring its original shape.

Clean the futon at least twice a year. You can use the bathtub as it is spacious enough to hold the futon. Simply let the water run in the tub until it is three-quarters full and add your laundry detergent. Place the futon in the soapy water and stomp all over it for some minutes, turning it from time to time. Be sure to have clean feet before you start the stomping. Once you have stomped enough, drain the water and keep stomping so as to squeeze out the excess water. Rinse the futon in this manner until clear water runs, and then dry in the sun. Be sure to turn it so that both sides get adequate exposure to the sun for even drying. You can also use a machine to wash your futon. Be sure to follow the instructions on the futon and on the machine for best results.

Where to Buy Futon

Technology has made it so easy by enabling online purchases. If you are considering purchasing a futon online, here are some pointers.

• Look at the online stores belonging to reputable brands and furniture stores. Yes, most of your favourite retailers and manufacturers today have online stores. The best news of all is that it doesn’t matter where you are; they can ship your items right to your doorstep!

• It doesn’t hurt to ask for recommendations from people you know and trust. If you have spent some time at a place and enjoyed their futon, you can ask them where they got it from. Most people are generous with information and they will direct you to where you can get yours. They’ll even throw in some tips on how to choose the best futon based on their experience with other retailers.

• Global online retailers such as Amazon are a big deal right now. You can get pretty much everything on such global platforms. You can search around such platforms for what you are looking for. The product descriptions will tell you whether the product in the picture is what you want. Be sure to read the reviews of the items that catch your eye. Pay attention to the reviews from buyers whose purchases are certified.

Precautions When Buying Futon Online

The internet is vast, with billions of users daily and loads of very valuable information. It is also the perfect grounds where fraudsters and scammers lurk waiting to pounce on you and get any information that can help them make away with your money or identity. As such, here are a few things you should always have in mind when buying a futon online.

• Always protect your personal and payment information. Verify that the site is indeed secure and that the payment process is secured by reputable security services providers. You don’t want anyone copying your credit card information and going on a shopping spree with your hard-earned money.

• Be very wary of redirecting links. You can install a security feature on your browser that tells you whether a site is safe or not especially if you are not tech-savvy enough to tell a fake link. Most of the redirecting links can land you on sites owned by hackers and fraudsters where your information will be harvested and used against you.

• Always buy from reputable retailers. This not only assures you of the quality of the items that you are buying, but it also helps in ensuring that your online transactions are safe.

• Be sure to read the fine print from the seller’s terms. Check the return or exchange policy as well as dispute resolution. Be wary of sellers whose return policies are oppressive, unfair or non-existent.

• Always confirm the details of the items you wish to buy. Be sure to confirm the sizes, colours, material, and all other relevant details of your futon before you make payment. This ensures that you do not pay for the wrong items. It is also advisable to confirm warranty details of any item you buy. Additionally, confirm your shipping information so that your item is delivered to the right place at a time when you will be present to certify that what you get is what you paid for.

• Make a copy of the orders that you make and keep copies of the online communications you have with the retailer regarding your order. Keep a copy of the payment receipt as well. Whenever there is an issue, refer to the order number or confirmation number so as to make work easier for both of you. It is always good to have facts to refer to in case you need to.

• Most importantly, avoid making payments online when using free public Wi-Fi. As tempting as it is, free public Wi-Fi can be just as dangerous. This is because it is easy to hack and a hacker can use your payment details to make purchases for themselves. Always make payments via a secure connection on an encrypted checkout platform. Additionally, use a card that has spending limits so that even if a hacker somehow gets a hold of your card details, the damage will not be financially crippling.

The Japanese Platform Bed Styles

Traditionally, the tatami mat was the only support for the futon. Recently, however, Japanese furniture manufacturers have come up with a variety of alternative support. Top on that list is the platform bed frame. 

The platform bed consists of a solid panel or frame slats which are used to support the futon. Most of these platforms do not feature any springs. While this decision is mainly economical, most people are not fans of the squeaky springs. Like all other pieces of furniture, the platform frames are available in various styles, the Asian platform-style being the most popular.

The most popular material used to make the frame is wood. However, you can find frames made of other materials such as compressed cardboard or coated metal. The design and quality vary greatly, so does the corresponding costs. These platform bed frames are perfect for futons, and any other mattress type such as memory form which requires a flat surface.

Japanese style platform beds are lower than the typical beds, and may or may not feature a headboard/footboard. Being the biggest part of any bedroom décor, this style of platform bed creates a relaxing atmosphere. We’ll look at some of the most common styles available in the market today.

The Simple, Traditional Platform

This is a simple, sleek design featuring decorative molds and rounded corners. This platform is made of wood panels under a solid plywood base. It doesn’t come with a headboard, and it is very low compared to typical bed frame heights. If you are looking for something basic to start you off, this is a great option.

The Tatami Platform 

This platform frame is mostly wooden, featuring wooden planks. Tatami mats are then laid on top of the planks to form the base for the futon. This frame style is high quality and is available in a variety of sizes and finishes. It is relatively affordable, low in height and perfect for the traditional feel of futon on the tatami.

The Modern Platform Bed

This is a modern Japanese design that can be used to create a relaxing eastern theme in the bedroom. The platform is so close to the floor that at first glance you’d think that you are replacing your tatami mat with a wooden plank. This frame is made of solid wood and sometimes features a headboard. This design creates a harmonious look that is simple yet elegant. This elegant but simple design makes it easy to use any decorative piece in the bedroom.

The Contemporary Platform Bed

This design follows the traditional style bed frame but adds some changes such as unique shape to the frame. This style is the luxurious version of the modern platform bed. It is built just as low and features sturdy solid base for the futon or memory foam mattress. The Asian style contemporary platform is the most popular design today; it is comfortable and appealing to the eye. Some designs come with matching bedside furniture while still keeping to the minimalist décor style.

Bedroom Furniture Japanese Style

The most notable things about Japanese living spaces are the closeness to nature, simplicity, elegance and minimalism. Japanese designs may not be very particular about displaying luxury in their spaces and designs or feature any fancy furnishings or extreme accents. No; the décor is mainly simple featuring as many natural materials as possible. The décor is simple, with nature and earthy tones that promote relaxation and gives the feeling of closeness to nature.

Traditionally, Japanese bedroom furniture was non-existent. However, modernity has changed a few things around how the bedroom is decorated. However, the simplicity of the décor and incorporation of natural materials and earthy tones and textures still feature heavily. The beds are still low, almost on the floor, there is still use of the futon instead of the modern foam mattresses and some beds still incorporate tatami mats in their design.

Some of the furniture pieces that are found in a typical modern Japanese bedroom include the following.

• A low platform bed which may or may not feature headboards and tatami mats

• Fitted wardrobes where the folded mats, blankets and pillows can be kept

• Bedside tables which may or may not hold illumination devices

• A bamboo dresser

• Shoji screens, which are traditional bamboo panels that are used as room dividers or in front of windows to enhance privacy as well as limit the amount of light going into the room

In keeping with the minimalist theme, you will notice that many authentic Japanese décor options feature wooden frames with transparent paper or glass. there is also abundant use of sliding doors, natural light angles, balanced textures and neutral colours that all come together in carefully calculated layouts.

Final Thoughts

The Japanese are known for their impeccable, elegant yet simple designs. Their home decors culture gives the rooms an inviting and relaxing atmosphere. Everything in a Japanese home is carefully and thoughtfully selected and concisely placed. You cannot find a crowded space with random decorative pieces.

While the décor also keeps up the minimalist japanese culture, you can find some decorative pieces such as paintings, figurines, statuettes, prints and house plants incorporated in home décor. These items, however, are carefully selected and only feature anything that it either traditional or is a symbol of national pride. 

It is easy to find bonsai home plants and cherry blossom paintings featured in a room. White porcelain is also widely used in utensils, lampshades and flower pots. It is also pretty common to find mini-waterfalls on natural stone incorporated in home decor to keep up with the harmony of the décor. If you are not used to the Japanese home décor, you will be definitely hit by the cultural difference. 

The style used in interior design from Japan is minimalist, spacious, features a lot of natural light, sights and sounds. Japanese furniture is mostly low or on the floor. This includes beds, chairs and tables. It is pretty common for Japanese to easily sit on the floor and get up quickly. This can be quite a struggle for people who are used to higher furniture. If you are looking to decorate your home in the traditional Japanese style, be sure to check out online mages for inspiration.


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Daiwa Japan Futon Manufactures, 696 Uxbridge Road, Hayes
You can also contact us by phone: 020 7378 1998
or you can send us a message here: : mail@daiwa-foundation.org.uk

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