My Japanese Futon Mattress serves me well. My backache disappeared after sleeping on it the first night. I get a solid sleep session in now. I wake up full of energy, and when I get up, I don’t hobble in pain for my first few steps. (I can’t believe I suffered for two years because of a bad mattress.)
What Is A Traditional Japanese Futon Mattress?
If you are familiar with, or as enchanted as I am, by Japanese culture, then you would know there are a few things that stand out as exceptional.
Tea ceremonies, samurai, sushi, ikebana, bonsai, anime, cherry blossoms and ... Japanese Futon Mattress!
So ancient yet so modern, the Japanese people have managed to keep the integrity of their culture alive, and we in the West can use some of these ideas to enhance and benefit our lifestyles.Sleeping on a Japanese Futon Mattress, for those of you who have never experienced it, is a dream.
Basically, a futon is a mattress that gets stuffed with 100% cotton, covered with a durable weave, cotton cover and is able to get rolled out, like a mat. It is simple, minimalist and convenient.
Japanese futons have four components to them:
1. The Futon “Base”:
A rectangular mat, called a tatami, gets laid out on the floor and the futon mattress gets rolled out on top of this mat. The tatami keeps the futon mattress clean. Even if you sweep with regularity, there will always be dust or dirt particles at ground level.
Tatami mats get made from woven rush (igusa) and packed with rice straw (Toko), So their second function is to give a bit of softness between your mattress and a hard floor.
They will also give you better support - especially if you put your Japanese Futon mattress on a slat base. The Tatami mat will give nice support - while still allowing the mattress to breath.
2. The Futon “Mattress”:
The Japanese Futon Mattress is a shikibuton. This is the part of the futon we know as a Japanese futon. It is also where the confusion comes in as many manufacturers now call any mattress that folds up, or doubles as a couch, a futon.
Traditionally, Japanese futons, or shikibutons, get made by stuffing cotton woven covers with pure cotton fibers. Today commercial Japanese Futon Mattresses get stuffed with polyester more often than cotton.
Some manufacturers use high-grade eco-friendly polyester blends that are anti-bacterial, anti-mites and hypo-allergenic. Hygroscopic cotton is sometimes used too.
3. The “Pillow”:
The traditional Japanese pillow is more akin to a neck cradle, padded with buckwheat hulls, called sobakowa. Ancient takamakura get bought as antique or vintage collector’s items. But you can buy sobakawa (buckwheat hull) pillows, online.
These pillows, like their traditional counterparts, have health benefits that promote longevity. More on that further down.
4. The “Blanket”:
To cover yourself in colder climes you will need a blanket called a kakebuton. This lightweight quilt is also made of cotton. In the West, they get called comforters. They can roll up and stored along with the shikibuton.
When you buy a traditional Japanese Futon Mattress, you can buy all these components separately or as a set. You can use Western-style sheets and pillows and even buy or make a base if a tatami is not your style. Everything about a Japanese Futon Mattress shouts versatile, practical and convenient.
My Japanese futon is not traditional, but it is definitely not far off. In fact, my non-traditional Japanese futon suits me better than a traditional one would because it looks impressive as a couch too.
I can roll it up or leave it “unmade”. I can use it as a couch; I can change rooms and sleep in my “bedroom” or make my lounge “the bedroom”.
My Japanese futon is a pure non-toxic mattress. My breathing has become more profound, and my allergies have disappeared.
But enough about me...
Would you switch to a traditional Japanese Futon Mattress, given a chance?
Or maybe you’d settle for an almost authentic, Japanese style futon?
Why would you opt for sleeping on the ground and rolling up your bed every day?
...Let’s find out.
Pro tip: Don’t get caught out by the word “futon”, which gets flung around way too casually these days and can mislead you into thinking any old fold -out couch can be a futon.
Some people may not want to sleep close to the ground, for their own personal reasons. And if you look around you can find Japanese Futon Mattress that are lighter, although they will might be from toxic materials.
So shop around or check out our review for some top picks.
So as you can see, there are benefits to both styles. It depends on why and what you want your japanese bed roll for.
9 Reasons To Choose A Traditional Japanese Futon Mattress
1. Great way to transition toddlers from cribs to beds. Or from parental beds to their own sleeping spaces.
2. Japanese Futon Mattress is a Perfect space-saver, ideal for tiny houses, small apartments and studio living.
3. Practical: Stores out of sight, ideal for extra beds for multiple guests.
4. Healthy: Made from natural fibers, this increases the lifespan of the futon and also means, with proper care, it retains its shape. It looked after; your futon will continue to be a comfortable platform to sleep on for years.
5. Affordable: Japanese Futon Mattress sell for a fraction of the price of a conventional bed, so there is a futon to match everyone’s budget.
6. Versatile: The lower price also means you can buy more futons for guests and still have space to utilize “guest” rooms as workspaces, extra living rooms or playrooms and
7. Adaptable: Can get made thicker for a softer base. Add layers for a more padded sleep experience. Some of you will find a thin Japanese Futon Mattress too hard. This solved by either adding a tatami mat underneath or adding layers on top of the shikibuton (Japanese Futon Mattress) .
If your futon is on slats, change them out for a tatami instead, this will improve the smoothness of the mattress. Slatted bases can often cause the mattress to become lumpy.
8. Breathable: Japanese futons, because they get made from cotton, absorb sweat. This makes sleeping on hot nights a better experience, and you don’t feel sticky and slimy all night. Because they are easy to hang up, and made from cotton, the sweat will get “aired out”.
9. Low to the Ground: They are nice and low to the ground so you never have to worry about falling off - which is great especially if you have children
The Major Benefits Of Sleeping On A Japanese Futon Mattress
A Japanese mattress gives you a good night’s sleep.
We spend 1/3 of our lives asleep. Quality sleep is essential, without it we develop a host of health problems.
Sleep deficiency means we spend our waking hours feeling grumpy, stressed and tired. Sleeping on the floor is better for your health.
Japanese futon mattresses are firm but comfortable. This gives you a good night’s sleep. Some people need a period to adjust.
I found after my first night, my back pain that used to creep up at 2 a.m. and mess with me until I arose disappeared. And three months on still no pain. We do roll and flip ours about three times a week though.
Ever heard of an Inversion Table - we have an authoritative article on them.
Sleeping on a Japanese Futon can have many health benefits.
A Japanese futon supports spinal health
Sleep is important because while we sleep our bodies repair cell damage, recharge our batteries and remove waste from brain cells.
Did you know that the spine houses your central nervous system and your CNS is what connects every system in your body to each other and therefore all body functions connect, via the spine?
Japanese Futon Mattresses tend to be stiffer and if you use it on the floor with a tatami mat you will get a well supported sleep. Compare this to a soft mattress, the futon does not allow your joints to become unsupported and sag. Some Osteopaths say that if your joints are not supported well by your mattress, they can become overstretched when you sleep and overnight contribute to back ache.
So, bad spinal health = bad general health. We underestimate the importance of spinal health.
Japanese roll-up beds provide a healthier bedroom environment
Dust mites and mold cause an array of health issues. By sleeping on a Japanese Futon Mattress, you keep your sleeping space cleaner.
Mold can’t grow in the damp from sweat or humid conditions because your futon should get aired regularly.
I find it hard to believe, but each person can lose a pound of skin (dead scales) a year on or into their mattress. You can imagine this makes the mattresses a breeding ground for dust mites. This is just bad news especially for asthma sufferers.
Beating your futon ensures dust, and the mites that will follow, are less likely to cause respiratory problems, like asthma, and allergies.
Reduce sweat during the night
A futon has other benefits too. Unlike a traditional divan bed, the mattress of a futon is placed on a wooden slatted base. This can be helpful in several ways. When we sleep, each person loses half a pint of moisture a night. A mattress placed on a slatted base allows greater circulation of air to reach the mattress. This can help to reduce sweating during the night.
Some commercial mattresses can be contaminated with toxins which does not help asthma or other allergies. However, the wadding of futons are made from natural fibres. For me this makes Japanese Futon mattresses, especially certified organic futons a healthier choice.
Research also shows getting a new bed is more effective than sleeping pills. It is said it can improve a night's sleep by 45 minutes.
The good news is futons come in different grades of mattress - so you can choose a softer version, rather than the hard rock versions associated with Japan!
What To consider When Buying A Futon mattress
I bought my Japanese Futon Mattress online. It was simple. I saw the picture, chose the size, added a cover. I bought it from an online company that only has the one style. It came with a very light fold up the base. So it doubles as a daytime couch, and we sleep on it every night.
It is a 100% cotton stuffed mattress in a thick cover. It is cumbersome though. And I had to buy an additional cover to protect it from dirt. But it is worth it, king-size and 8” in width, built for heavyweights and built to last.
The whole process was as simple as a japanese futon bed!
So when you buy a futon, all you need to check is:
This can be tricky as US futon mattresses will be sized differently to those from Japan. The best way to avoid disappointment is to check our size guides included with the review.
Most Japanese Futon Mattress brands have a choice of twin, full and queen. But like I said the actual dimensions would differ.
Sometimes a few inches make the world of difference so when in doubt I always go for the bigger size. Others will say single, not twin, and still, others will have a king-size option too.
What is it stuffed with?
Do you want 100% cotton, like the traditional Japanese Futon Mattress or are you happy with different blends of polyester, cotton and sometimes memory foam which is inserted between the cotton batting for extra support?
- Can you get a ready-made cover with it?
- Do you want additional accessories, like a base, mattress, pillow or comforter?
- Do you want the minimalist, traditional futon mattress, or an American style futon or a fold-out couch futon?
Once those questions are answered check out my suggestions on the best real and dependable Japanese futon Mattresses in the review below.
Japanese Futon Review: Best Japanese Futon Mattresses you can buy
There is something for every taste in our reviewed futon products.
Whether you want a traditional, lightweight roll-up with, or without, all the add-ons, a heavier thicker shikibuton with no trimmings, or a futon mattress sleeper couch. I have found the best products, based on quality, craftsmanship, value for money, aesthetics, and functionality.
I have tried to source brands that offer the healthiest, non-toxic options, as well as trying to find the perfect compromise between east and west.
We can benefit, healthwise, by adopting this japanese style futons while still cashing in on the feeling of space and solidness of the bigger heavier versions that get built for larger people.
.....Let’s get started:
Authentic Japanese Futon Mattress For Minimalist Living
The following three brands all offer very affordable, simple, roll-up futons. They have a range of sizes and colors. The covers are not cotton though, they are polyester, which is why they are cheaper. But that aside, any of these will work well for you if you want a quick, light, compact traditional style Japanese futon bed.
EMOOR Shikibutons – Made In Japan: Best Quality: Available in Sets
EMOOR Japanese futon mattresses get made by skilled Japanese craftsmen. They use 100% cotton for all their fabric covers and sheeting. The stuffing of their mattresses are 50% French wool and 50% polyester.
Not any old polyester, but a particular eco-friendly type, that is also anti-bacterial and anti-mite. The wool and cotton allow good breathability, extra support, and durability.
All there Japanese Futon products are of a high standard, and their range is quite vast so I will give you some sizes and options here, but it is by no means their entire range.
EMOOR Japanese Traditional Japanese Futon Mattress “Classe” comes in 5 sizes. Classe is EMOOR’s best selling futon series. They have the normal length mattresses and have also got extra long ones. All their shikibutons are 2.5” thick.
Sizes: (measurements are in inches and are width by length)
Twin Long: 39 x 83; Weight: 10.65lbs
Full: 55x79; Weight: 10.8lbs
Full Long: 55x83; Weight: 18.5lbs
Queen: 63x79; Weight: 16.2lbs
Queen Long:63x83; Weight: 19.84lbs
As you can see the more extended size weighs more, apparently, so it is a good idea to figure out if your Japanese futon mattress will be light enough for you to lift and roll, or lift and hang, to air.
EMOOR sell sets, which include the shikibuton, makura and kakebuton, or individual components and they also sell all the covering and linen you may want.
Their linen is 100% cotton and has odor resistant and anti-bacterial properties. Tatami mats and even anti-snore pillows are available.
Rolling Beds Futon Mattresses – light and compact and affordable
These futon mattresses are lightweight, roll-up with ease and have tie-ups attached to make storage and travel convenient.
They come in three sizes, and the inner is 95% cotton, 5% polyester fibers and 5% resilient foam. They are incredibly light compared to other brands.
The DDFR3308 model being the lightest, only weighing 14 pounds and measuring 3” thick, 30” wide and 80” long. This is their single size.
All their mattresses meet flame retardant laws, made in the USA and come in 15 different colors. They have plain colors from white to blue to purple and coffee, as well as two rose patterned covers, which have a lovely vintage look to them.
The other sizes available are the:
Queen – 3”x 60” x 80” and weighs 28 pounds
Traditional/Full – 3” x 39”x 80” and weighs 17 pounds
Unfortunately, the outer covers are 100% polyester, not cotton. But the weight and convenience and price make them a perfect choice for anyone on a budget or wanting to buy many to use as extra bedding for guests.
Magshion Futon Mattresses – Super light, ten colors to choose from, budget buys
Magshion have a range of ten colors, all with polyester covers. Their filling, though, is from cotton batting with a 1/2” layer of foam in the center.
All their roll-ups are 3’ thick and while they are super light, (their 27”x80” weighs 11 pounds), they don’t have tie-ups like the Rolling Beds and D&D.
So traveling with them may be a tad more hassle, but not much.
Both Rolling Beds Futons and Magshion Futon get rolled out onto a floor or carpet, but if you want to prolong the life of your Japanese futon mattress and get some added support, it may be worth investing in a tatami.
These mats are woven the traditional way, from natural straws and have a lovely scent.
100% Cotton Japanese Styled Futon Mattress – SuperSize Me!
Epic Furnishings Au Natural 8" Loft All Cotton Filled Futon Mattress
These American style Japanese Futon Mattress are the real deal. Made with 100% cotton inside and out, they are the opposite of the lightweight, portable Japanese style futons.
These bad boys are HEAVY. This is what I bought (my husband is a powerlifter, so the weight is a piece of pie) Fortunately they do have smaller sizes, but they are still massive compared to other shikibutons.
They use long fiber cotton, so the life of your mattress gets prolonged as long fiber cotton helps to retain shape and posture, but as with all 100% cotton futons, you will need to air and bat.
Also, they cover their futon mattresses with soft microfiber suede, guaranteeing easy cleaning, and smooth twill casing, that adds strength but also looks really good. Their mattresses get finished off by hand, ensuring that added touch of craftsmanship and attention to detail.
The thicker mattress makes it the ideal Japanese Futon Mattress for a base that folds into a couch. Because they are 100% cotton, you are still getting an authentic futon and not a cheap foam knockoff. Bases get sold separately.
I, personally, would only go for a wooden base. My preference for both appearance and strength and durability. Other materials will disappoint by rusting or breaking under the weight eventually. Also, the slats allow aeration, and there will be no “give” that comes with cheap bases that have springs.
Nirvana Futons Westfield Futon Set- Futon Bed Sleeper Couch – The non-traditional pick
I chose this as my top pick for Futon Bed Couches. It is sturdy, from hardwood that has been sustainably sourced and comes with the mattress and base.
An excellent idea for people who sleep on their own futons that get stored away, but want a couch in their home, that looks amazing and can double up as a bed for occasional guests
The mattress is not a real Japanese Futon Mattress it is a futon style mattress, but I love this frame.
Nirvana has quality furniture, so this is an ideal pick for an occasional fold out bed or for someone in a tiny apartment. Great for a studio flat that has a living room that doubles as a lounge too.
They do sell the bases without mattresses so it may be well worth buying just a base from them and finding a more traditional, but still thicker than usual, Japanese futon mattress.
You can pick from about four styles of base. On top of that, they offer a 5-year warranty on the base and four years on the mattress. The cover is available in a few different options.
And the mattress is light enough for a single person to roll out and put back every day.
Accessories: I have left these links here for anyone interested in finding best futon pillows, tatami mats, and kakebutons.
IKEHIKO Japanese Traditional Igusa Tatami Mattress: Best Tatami Mats
Take a look at these traditional Tatami mats from IKEHIKO. They get Japanese craftsmen, using 100% Japanese Rush Grass. The grass gives a lovely scent.
For those who find it too peculiar it gets reduced by a good airing or using essential oils in burners. But I find the smell pleasant. They fold into 3, making them easy to store.
Their mats come in 3 sizes: (measurements all in inches)
IKEHIKO Tatami Twin: 39 x 83 x 0.5; Folded Size: 39 x 27.5 x 1.5; Weight: 5 pound
IKEHIKO Tatami Small Full: 47.25 x 83 x 0.5; Folded size: 47.25 x 27.5 x 1.5; Weight: 7.5 pounds
IKEHIKO Tatami Full: 55 x 83 x 0.5; Folded size:55 x 27.5 x 1.5; Weight: 9 pounds
These may not be the cheapest mats available, but I find the quality excellent. When it comes to priorities, I would rather spend a bit more on a decent tatami and less on the actual futon.
You can still get away with a cheap futon, but when you buy a tatami, it pays in the long run to get a durable, quality, handcrafted mat.
Pillows/Sobakowa – The traditional, healthy option pillow for improved spinal health, filled with rice or buckwheat. Try one like this: Organic cotton buckwheat pillow from Infinite Nature.
Kakebuton – The J-Life Kakebuton is the perfect topping for your soon to be Japanese sleeping experience. The silk filled comforter that can be dry cleaned. Silk filling regulates body temperature and absorbs moisture, and this traditional comforter is handmade to order, by skilled Japanese craftsmen that use traditional silk pulling methods.
Traditional Japanese Futon Bed vs Western Styled “Japanese” Futon
Before you decide on whether you want to buy a traditional Japanese futon bed or a Japanese styled futon mattress with a western slant, let’s make a quick comparison of the two.
Japanese futon mattresses are:
- Lightweight and Thin
- Made from pure cotton, although some are now made with polyester layering. This means they are cheaper but still hypo-allergenic.
- Easy to roll up and store in a small space.
- Light enough for a single person, even a child, to lift and hang up, to air out
- Good for the spine. A healthy spine means a better quality of sleep. Sleep is crucial to good health.
- Easy to beat and “fluff” for a longer mattress life.
- Versatile – you can use them as a guest bed, day bed, mat to sit on or a regular sleeping bed. They don’t, however, make good couches.
- Practical – they store in small spaces, can be set up anywhere with enough floor space. This makes them ideal for small apartments and tiny house living.
- Convenient – easy to take with you when travelling. If you are staying with people, you can bring your Japanese futon mattress along, and your hosts don’t need to worry if they have no extra beds.
- Durable – with proper care, your Japanese futon will last at least five years with nightly use, and even longer if you only use it sometimes.
Compare this to a Western-styled futon. Most futon-style beds are actually glorified sleeper couches or fold-out beds. With their primary use being a couch that folds out into a bed.
Western futons are by comparison:
- Thicker in width.
- Heavier in weight, this makes them very difficult to fold up and spread out on a daily basis.
- Often made from polyurethane foam (memory foam) and other toxic materials. This shortens the lifespan of the mattress and may cause respiratory problems.
- Not so good for your back once they start to lose shape. More difficult to hang up to beat and aerate.
- Due to the added weight, when used as a bed they are often left flat and not rolled up daily. This makes them more prone to becoming moldy.
- Have shorter lifespans because they will become lumpy and uncomfortable, and have an adverse effect on your spinal health.
- Take up more space. This is okay if their primary purpose is a daytime couch and occasional fold out bed.
- Sold as a couch that folds out into a bed as opposed to a bed that folds into a couch.
- Limited in how many you can have. They take up space as couches so that you can accommodate fewer guests.
- Still practical as a space saver in some instances, but not as economical on space as a traditional Japanese Futon Mattress.
- Convenient if you are looking for a couch that folds out into a bed that is off the ground.
How To Care For Your Futon Traditional Japanese Futon mattress?
It is essential to care for your roll-up futon properly. It is really easy and takes hardly any time at all.
Once or twice a week you can hang your futon mattress over a railing, clothes horse or washing line. Secure it if you stay in windy places.
Let it air out for the day when the weather is good.
Using a tennis racket or something similar, you knock the futon firmly. This removes dust, aerates the inner batting and allows the density of the fibers to regain the “puffiness” it had when you got it.
In between, all you need to do is roll it up in the morning and store it until you want to go sleep.
It is that simple. Not doing this will shorten the futon’s lifespan. Also if you don’t roll it up, it may become moldy. And if you don’t bat it, it may become ridden with dust mites.
What about Western Style Futons?
If you have purchased a thick, heavy futon mattress, you will need to be even more particularly when it comes to caring. And you will need assistance when rolling it up and batting it.
If you do this regularly, you will have a long-lasting, solid, comfortable Japanese futon and sleep really well.
If your futon has a slatted base be sure to flip the mattress often to prevent lumps. If it is heavy and you are one person, you can lift the mattress to waist height and drop it.
Do this three or four times, and you will have fluffed the fibers up sufficiently.
If you have a futon that gets used as a couch more often than a bed, you will need to open it out and air it at least twice a month, to prevent mold and retain a good shape.
I hope you are fired up to try out a Japanese Futon Mattress if you don’t already have one. I am speaking from experience, changing back to a Japanese Futon was the wisest decision I have made this year...so far.
My backache has disappeared, I have renewed vigor, and my energy levels are way up again since my futon arrived two months ago.
I’d love to hear your comments once you’ve tried yours out. And don’t forget to care for your futon mattress on a regular basis. It will serve you well.