A Brief History Of Futons

Originally from Japan, Futons are like bed mattresses but used and made differently than in their home country.

Japanese Futons

Measuring two inches (5 cm) thick and filled with cotton and/or synthetic batting, Japanese futons are typically flat and are designed to be spread out on tatami flooring, which is a special kind of flooring indigenous to Japanese architecture. Japanese futons are usually sold in sets consisting of the futon mattress (shikibuton), a comforter (kakebuton) or blanket (moku), a summer towel-like blanket (towelket), and a bean- or plastic bead-filled pillow (makura). This is equivalent to a western bed set.

Japanese futons are usually stored in a closet, but must be left to air in the sunlight when not put away. These futons are typically beaten with bamboo to keep them in shape.

Western Futons

Western futons are closer to mattresses; they are also stuffed with multiple layers of foam and/or batting, but they do not have springs. Western futons are placed on an adjustable frame resembling that of a couch, and are designed in the fashion of a sofa-bed—to be used as a couch and a bed. Western futons are constructed larger and thicker than Japanese futons, and are cheap compared to regular mattresses or beds.

Western futons are common now in Japan. These futons, hand-made, have no synthetic filling; they are stuffed primarily with cotton. Western futons in Japan are sold as “earth-friendly,” and are not composed of any chemicals whatsoever, distinguishing them from the traditional bed set.

Futons are very comfortable and, like sleeping bags, can also serve as portable or transportable beds, depending on their size and weight. Although futons can be damaged, they can more easily be repaired than a traditional mattress, since its interior matting is packed in a structured, layered way. Futons are otherwise most convenient and economical and therefore preferable to people on-the-go or living in small spaces. They’re not only for the Japanese anymore!