Are you thinking about using a Japanese futon as your mattress instead of a bed? If so, read on, because this article will introduce a careful selection of "shiki-buton" and "kake-buton" that are made in Japan and can be bought online. We will also briefly go into the history of the futon and explain the various parts, which is important to know when selecting your own.
Types of Japanese Futon and Their History
“Shiki-buton” is the name for futon used as mattresses.
People in Japan have used many different types of mattresses throughout history, including "tatami” (mats made of soft rush), which have a history that dates back approximately 1,300 years. As shown in the picture above, long ago, aristocrats would sleep in kimono atop layers of tatami. Tatami was quite expensive, so commoners would sleep on “mushiro,” another type of flooring material made by weaving together straw.
Shiki-buton, which are cloth mattresses stuffed with cotton, came about much later in the middle of the Edo period (1681 - 1780) and were quite pricey items that were out of reach of commoners. They started becoming available to the masses around 1900, but even so, most farmers still used straw mats. Nowadays, shiki-buton are the norm for people who sleep on the ground, and they are typically placed on top of tatami flooring for maximal comfort.
Kake-buton are best equated to comforters, but as mentioned before, aristocrats in the olden days would sleep with kimono in lieu of kake-buton. Kake-buton originated from “yogi” (also called “kaimaki”), which were thick kimono stuffed with cotton, and became widespread with the development of cotton cultivation after the Sengoku period (1467 - 1590).
The square kake-buton that we are familiar with today originated in the middle of the Edo period (1681 - 1780) and were considered expensive items along with shiki-buton. Similar to shiki-buton, they became more readily available to the masses in the first half of the 19th century, and remain the standard to this day.
Advantages of Japanese Futon
They Are Easy to Carry and Keep Clean
Unlike mattresses, futon can easily be carried, as shown in the picture above. Japanese houses are generally smaller than Western ones, and since beds didn’t make their way into Japan until the 1920s, it used to be customary to sleep on tatami flooring.
However, because Japan gets quite humid, leaving the futon spread out on the floor invites mold, which is why futon are usually put away during the day or hung out to dry and disinfect in the sunlight. To make this daily ritual easier, futon are made to be easy to carry. This also has the advantage of clearing up more floor space in the bedroom, making it a more versatile space.
Futon Are Great for Lower Back Pain
As futon are usually laid directly on top of tatami mats, it is more difficult for one’s hips to sink down in comparison to a regular mattress. For this reason, many people buy futon to help with lower back pain, or even lay shiki-buton out on top of a bed frame.
However, do be aware that there is no hard scientific evidence that confirms that sleeping on a futon definitely helps with lower back pain, so be sure to do your research to buy the bedding that is best for you.
Facts About Japanese Futon You Probably Don’t Know
It Is Common to Put a Cover on Them
As futon are rather big, they can be difficult to wash, so it is common to have sheets or a cover on them. This keeps the futon itself from getting dirty and makes it easier to keep it clean by just washing the covers. There are covers for both shiki and kake-buton.
You Can’t Wash All Futon
Japanese futon are commonly stuffed with cotton or down, but it's important to keep in mind which can and can’t be washed. Nowadays, it is popular to wash futon in oversized washing machines at a laundromat, but there are also many futon that cannot be washed due to their stuffing. For this reason, be sure to check the information about a specific futon before purchasing if washing it is something that you hope to do.
Featured Japanese Futon Products that Ship Overseas
1. FULI Japanese Traditional Shiki Futon (shikibuton) High Grade Floor Mattress
FULI is a leading brand in exporting Japanese-made products. This king-size futon is big enough for any sleeping situation, and it has thick and soft padding. The price is quite reasonable considering the quality, and it is made out of cotton, meaning that it dries quickly. It is stuffed with polyester and polyurethane, giving it a lovely, cushion-like firmness.
Size: King (75″ x 79″ x 2-1/2″ ) (190.5 cm x 200.66 cm x 6.35 cm)
Item Thickness: 2.5” (6.35 cm)
Fabric: 100% Cotton
Stuffing: 100% Polyester and Polyurethane
2. EMOOR Japanese Traditional Mattress Futon 6-fold
The brand EMOOR is a relatively new company, having been established in 2006. With their vision being to “liven up the world through sleep,” this brand is a distributor of sleeping goods and develops and sells items that help you get a comfortable sleep. This full-size futon mattress was created with the intention of being used together with a mattress. For this reason, it is on the thinner side and is not recommended for use on its own. It is made out of cotton, meaning that it dries quickly, and using it versus just a mattress will bring your sleep to another level.
Size: Full (55” x 79”) (139.7 cm x 200.66 cm)
Fabric: 100% Cotton
Stuffing: 100% Polyester
3. EMOOR Japanese Ultra-Compact Futon Set with Storage Case, Twin Size.
This futon mattress, comforter, and pillow set also come from EMOOR. Even in Japan, there are few futon that are this compact, as you can easily store it just by wrapping it with a rubber band. Its compatibility means that it is somewhat lacking in thickness, but as it is densely packed, it is quite sturdy. It is a convenient item that is more suitable as a simple bedding set-up rather than for everyday use.
Size: Futon mattress: 39” x 83” (100 cm x 210 cm) Comforter: 59” x 83” (150 cm x 210 cm) Pillow: 17” x 25” (43 cm x 63 cm) When in the case: 20” x 24” x 15” (50.8 cm x 60.96 cm x 38.1 cm) (11 lbs / 4.5 kg)
4. Tokyo Nishikawa Wool Shiki-buton
This shiki-buton is from a long-standing futon maker, Nishikawa, which was established 455 years ago and is one of Japan’s leading futon makers. The fabric is made out of 100% cotton, and the backside is antibacterial as well as odor and bug-resistant, making it quite the hygienic product. The stuffing is 100% wool, meaning it has great moisture absorption, and does not get musty easily. As expected of Nishikawa, this is a top-quality futon sold at an incredibly reasonable price. However, just note that even though it is listed as king-sized, this is according to Japanese standards, so it may be smaller than what you expected.
Size: King (180 cm x 210 cm / 70.86” x 82.67”)
Fabric: 100% Cotton
Stuffing: 100% Wool
5. EMOOR Comforter CLASSE
This is a full-size, 100% cotton kake-buton. EMOOR continues to pursue comfortable sleep, and as expected, this is a high-quality product. The stuffing is antibacterial as well as odor and bug-resistant, and is made with special chemical-free cotton, making it an amazing product available for quite a reasonable price. You can even choose how much stuffing you want in the product depending on how you’ll use it—the ideal amount changes based on the season and the area you’re living in. And with its simple design, it’ll go great in any room!
Size: 75” x 83” (190 cm x 210 cm)
Filling: 4.2lbs (1.9kg) *for winter
Fabric: 100% Cotton
Stuffing: 100% Cotton
6. Koushu Umofuton Kake-buton
This Koushu Umofuton Kake-buton is regarded as one of the top products in the futon world, made with down washed in the rich, natural waters at the base of Mt. Fujiーthe cleanliness being over twice the national average. Each futon is lovingly created by experienced craftspeople, and as the fabric is woven with extra-fine cotton at a high density, it is breathable but also bug-resistant as well as soft to the touch. They use Polish White Mother goose down, which is light and warm, so you’re guaranteed a luxurious product.
Size: 210 cm × 210 cm (82.67” x 82.67”)
Filling: 2.4 kg (5.29 lbs)
Fabric: 100% Cotton
Stuffing: 95% Polish White Mother Goose Down, 5% Feathers
Brand: Koushu Umofuton
7. EMOOR 100% Cotton Comforter Cover
This is a futon cover, perfect to be bought along with a kake-buton. It is queen-size, sturdy, and comes with convenient fasteners. It is 100% cotton and has high absorption and wicking properties, so it can be used year-round. It can also be washed, so it is easy to keep clean. It is high quality, as expected of EMOOR, and compactable. You can choose from 10 designs—whichever best suits your taste!
Size: 83” x 83” (210 cm x 210 cm)
Color: Ivory / 9 other colors available
Material: 100% Cotton
Don't Forget the Tatami Mattress That Will Go Under the Futon!
Hopefully this article has helped you to pick out a good futon for a wonderful night's sleep. But, unless you live in a house with tatami flooring, you'll probably want to get yourself a tatami mattress to put on the floor under your futon for the complete experience. Check out our related article about the best tatami mattresses from Japan that can be purchased online:
Other Related article:▶ How to Take Care of Your Tatami Mat or Rug
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*These products may not be able to be shipped to certain countries. Please see the retailer's website for more information.
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.