Traditional Japanese Futon Mattress vs Traditional Mattress Bed

Traditional Japanese Futon Mattress

Real Japanese Futon

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Thinking about getting a Traditional Japanese Futon Mattress or a Futon? I have been practicing minimalism and living simply for a few years now. I have downsized my possessions down to almost fit into my backpack. That may seem to be extreme but that is what was working for me at the time.

Now I am looking to buy a bed and the thought of a bedroom set is giving me anxiety. I like the feeling of living light and nimble, owning few possessions. Really don’t need the furniture because I have anything to put in it. I will be taking up space and will be something else to manage, clean and take care of.

I am thinking about getting a traditional Japanese Futon Mattress. Not the American made a poor facsimile. Not the American low-quality half-couch and fold up bed but a real Shiki Futon. It will take up less space and will be only one thing to manage, not a full bedroom set. Millions of people in Japan use them and I will be looking to see if there is an advantage or is it just tradition.

The Minimalist Advantage of the American Mattress Bed

As a Minimalist, I could just purchase the mattress bed and not the accompanying furniture. At face value, the mattress bed looks more comfortable. People can also use it as a place to sit. I guess a mattress bed can make getting dressed more comfortable in most situations for some.

I already get strange looks about my minimalist stance, using a traditional Japanese futon mattress for a bed will add more of those looks. The mattress is usually only purchased a few times in a lifetime. I will not be getting into the cleaning of the traditional mattress because I don’t think it is ever done. There is some disgusting statistic on what accumulates on the life of a mattress. That is a whole different kind of post. Ewwwww!

The Advantage of A Real Japanese Futon

I am only considering the futon because of its compact design. It may fit well into my minimalist lifestyle. Now that I have done some research I’m finding out some advantages other than the obvious.

The traditional Japanese futon mattress takes off less space. If I get one without a frame I could fold it up and use the room for other purposes. The traditional Japanese futon mattress is easy to clean. In Japan people just hang it up and beat it clean. Most people also hang it out of the window in direct sunlight after the beating to naturally clean.

The traditional Japanese futon mattress is so compact I would have no problem taking it with me when I move to another location. I HATE moving mattress and box spring beds. They are bulky and the traditional box spring does not fold. I could roll the traditional Japanese futon mattress up and put in in my minivan and be on my way.

 

Traditional Japanese Futon Mattress

 

Traditional Japanese Futon Mattress

The traditional Japanese futon mattress bed is known as a Shikibutonor Shiki Futon also known as the Futon.

A Japanese bed is more than just a mattress over a box spring. It’s a combination of parts that build a comfortable sleeping system:

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  • Shiki Futon
  • Kakebuton (The Comforter)
  • Soba Gara makuta (Buckwheat Hull Pillow)
  • Tri-fold (Mattress Pad)
  • Tatami mat
  • Platform

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The Shiki Futon is the main component of the Japanese bed because it is the critical component to providing the overall comfort level of the real Japanese Futon. The Shiki Futon is usually made with 100% cotton and varying in thickness from 2 to 5 inches. A Shiki Futon is traditionally a high-quality product. The manufacturing process is meticulous and the materials must be top-quality for the Shiki Futon to hold its form and firmness for its lifetime.

Shiki Futons are usually wrapped in cotton or silk covers or sheet. To protect against wear & tear and block dust and allergens. This makes the Shiki Futons easy to keep clean.

The Kakebuton is what is used like a comforter. It is also traditionally made with high-quality components and is filled with hand-pulled silk which makes it extremely lightweight and efficient, retaining body heat. Some people even use electric blankets to provide extra heat in the colder months to ensure the body is kept warm throughout the night.

Next is the Soba Gara Makura, or buckwheat hull pillow. It is filled with organic buckwheat hull, this pillow provides a comfortable sleep support and adjusts to the contour of your head and neck. The buckwheat hull pillow also keeps the head and neck area dry and cool.

The tri-fold mattress underneath the Shiki Futon is becoming more and more popular. This is a thick foam mattress pad that is a perfect solution for adding an extra layer of comfort to the real Japanese Futon. The tri-fold mattress is great because it can be folded up and stored in a closet creating extra space where it is used.

Many people use a tatami mat or platform bed to support the entire Japanese Futon. The choice between these two elements can either make a portable and foldable sleeping system that can be stored in the closet, or create a structure in the bedroom like an authentic piece of Japanese furniture.

Caring for a Japanese bed is quite simple. Follow the tips below to care for and maintain each element of the Japanese bed.

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Shiki Futon

Over time dust mites and allergens may accumulate in the fillings. So it is necessary to do the following to make sure the Shiki Futon stays clean.

You must use fitted sheets on the Shiki Futon. Using fitted sheets will save you money in the long run because it will keep the Shiki Futon clean by blocking oils from your skin, dust, and allergens from permeating the cotton. For extra protection, you can use a hypoallergenic protective mattress cover.

You should clean it at least twice a year, take the Shiki Futon outdoors when it is sunny and warm. As mentioned earlier beat the Shiki Futon with a stick and then let it air out in the sun for at least three hours. You can also vacuum the Shiki Futon. Studies show that vacuuming is just as effective as beating.

The Conclusion

From what I have found in Japan people use the Futon for sleeping because of tradition. The mattress bed is also being used more and more in Japan. I believe the Futon has always been popular in Japan due to the space constraints in living quarters. The Japanese make optimum use of space and this is why I am considering the real Japanese Futon for my use.

As a practicing Simple Living Minimalist, I think the real Japanese Futon fits the bill for me. All of the pros mentioned earlier are appealing. The closer for me is the Futon’s space saving capability. I can fold up the Futon, store it in a closet and use the room for more than just a bedroom. That is very appealing to me. As I will not be needing a dresser, end tables and the like the Futon seems to be optimal.

The only deal breaker for me is a comfort. Will I consider the real Japanese Futon comfortable? I will not know until I make the purchase and try it out for a few nights. I will take the leap and let you know. What do you think? Would a traditional Japanese futon mattress be a better sleeping system for you?

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Tony W

Nothing to lose.

Tony W
Tony W

I created this website to explore Minimalist Living Ideas and what I have learned about Minimalism, Essentialism and Simple Living. Enjoying life with less worry, less stress, more money, more time and more freedom.

  • Michael Perry

    I’ve been sleeping on a full sized Japanese futon since 2014. I purchased it from J-Life. I don’t have the comforter or the other fancy stuff. Just a fitted sheet and a nice pillow and a warm blanket. I rent a room in a 5 bedroom house so I am interested in something that folds up and out the way. I would say for me the futon has really changed my sleeping habits. I think I sleep heavier and have a lot less lower back pain. I probably sleep less too. It is a harder mattress and it gets harder as the years go by. For my “almost minimal” lifestyle, the futon works great. I’ve moved twice to new rooms and its been great. Hauling it around is much easier but its still difficult for a single person to move a full sized futon. Nothing compared to a full bed and spring and stuff though. I would say if you want a firm bed, a simpler sleeping arrangement, and you don’t mind a bit of maintenance like folding it up and hauling it outside a few times a year, you will like it. I gave in and got a tri-fold mattress for underneath it. Under that, I have a nice rug. I think its difficult for a person to make a recommendation on what will work for sleeping for another person; but the futon has been the one thing I have wanted to keep over the last 2 years and some. Other things have come and gone and the futon stays. It will take you some time to get used to it though. Its a different sleep for me.

    Perhaps you already got the futon so I’ll leave this here if others read and want an opinion :-).

    • Thanks for your response Michael. I love my Futon and the minimalist lifestyle. That is why I have been looking into buying a Floyd Platform Bed to use with my Futon mattress. Check out the Floyd Platform Bed and tell me what you think.

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