For around 2000 years it has not been missing in any Japanese home: the futon. The Asian sleeping pad is characterized by a lying surface close to the floor that does not require a bed frame at all. Here you can find out why more and more westerners have been relying on the advantages of Japanese sleep culture for some years now.
What is a futon exactly?
You have to differentiate here. In Japan and Korea, the word futon is used to describe the entire sleeping area: from the tatami mats to the thin futon mattress and the soft shiki buton blanket to the kake buton coverlet. The pillow called Makura is also part of this composition.
In Europe, however, a futon is a bed that is close to the floor. It consists of a sturdy frame with short legs and a thin, classic mattress. So it is a low bed, which is mostly made puristically. Such models can just as easily be planned as a futon sofa, sofa bed or futon armchair.
A little vocabulary about the futon
Tatami: The insulating mat made of rushes and rice straw serves as a floor covering. In Japan and Korea, it is not uncommon to cover the entire living space of a house with tatami mats.
Shikibuton: The relatively thin, rollable or foldable futon is made of cotton. In the evening it is either placed directly on the tatami mat or, for more softness, on the futon.
Futon: The classic Japanese mattress with a firm feel, consisting of several layers of natural materials such as cotton. It is placed on a straw or tatami mat.
Kakebuton: The thin duvet is usually filled with cotton and silk. The kakebuton can be rectangular or in the shape of a kimono. With him you cover yourself up.
Makura: The little pillow is hard and unyielding. The head is slightly raised on it.
Zabuton: The firm cushion serves as a seat pad. It is placed on the tatami during the day when the futon bed is cleared away.
By the way: A Japanese bed is removed from the living area in the morning. It is ventilated and the individual mattresses and blankets are usually stowed in a closet until the evening.
Definition and pronunciation – futon
How does the Duden dictionary define the term futon?
Futon, the part of
speech: noun, masculine
- A mat that is used as a mattress [of a Japanese bed] and is relatively hard (with natural materials such as horsehair, cotton, etc.) padded.
2. Bed with a futon
How do you pronounce futon?
The Japanese mattress is pronounced “Füedong”. The pronunciation is soft and more nasal. The “G” at the end of the word can hardly be heard.
What is special about a futon mattress?
In contrast to our European mattresses, a classic futon has no springs or other flexible elements. Point elastic zones made of latex or visco foam are completely absent. Rather, the filling consists of several layers of cotton. The feeling of lying is firm and hard. The body is more likely to lie on the mattress and not sink in. Because the Japanese are used to the rigid base from childhood, they find their futon comfortable.
However, since European sleepers prefer a comfortable and yielding bed, western futon mattresses are constructed differently. They are still not that high, but the filling is made of a soft and springy material. Natural materials such as coconut or natural latex are popular. They provide the right support, but still give way at the crucial points. The springy layers are embedded in stabilizing layers of cotton, which is often organically grown. The multi-layer structure ensures a restful sleep.
Advantages of a futon:
- Some people find sleeping close to the ground to be homely and close to nature, which means they experience a more relaxed night.
- The thinner futon mattress ensures excellent ventilation.
- Because the futon mattress consists of original components such as cotton fibers or coconut, you bring nature into your home with it.
- As a futon bed, futon sofa bed or puristic futon armchair, the Asian-inspired pieces of furniture fit perfectly into small rooms and guest rooms. They are also ideal for temporary living because they can often be dismantled and assembled in a few simple steps.
- If you have little space, you can have a collapsible futon mattress for spontaneous overnight guests. It fits in every closet.
Disadvantages of a futon:
- A classic futon has no ergonomic zones. For sensitive people and people who sleep on their side, a conventional futon mattress could therefore be uncomfortable.
- Because most futon mattresses are not very high, they only fit into special futon beds. In a normal bed, the mattress sinks into the bed frame.
- If a futon sofa with sleep function is folded up too quickly in the morning, the necessary ventilation is missing.
How do I care for a futon mattress?
Traditional futons require a lot of care due to the filling material made of pure cotton. They have to be turned, aired, sunbathed and some even rolled up regularly. In Japan and Korea there are special stands on which the mat can be aired out during the day. With good care, Japanese futons are said to have a shelf life of around six years.
A European futon bed, on the other hand, is a little less demanding in terms of care. Here it is sufficient to turn the mattress when changing the bed and to clean the covers from time to time by vacuuming them or removing stains with a damp cloth. Because a futon mattress that is adapted to our sleeping culture has coordinated inner layers, the important air exchange also takes place on its own.
What kind of futon is right for me?
If you would like to sleep directly on the floor in order to come as close as possible to Asian culture, it is best to equip your sleeping area with a tatami mat and a futon mattress that matches your sleeping and lying habits. In contrast to many Asians, we are used to sleeping not only on our back, but also on our side. The traditional futons are relatively firm and unyielding, which is why they are primarily recommended for back sleepers.
When is a futon bed the right choice?
Here in Europe, relatively few want to sleep directly on the floor. If you still enjoy the traditional Japanese sleep feeling, but don’t want to do without comfort and ergonomic adjustment, you could be happy with a modern futon bed.
Such a model is available in the common single and double bed sizes and fits wonderfully into puristically furnished bedrooms. Models with a frame made of pine or other untreated natural wood are popular, for example.
Futons with more flexibility
If, on the other hand, you are looking for multifunctional furniture that also looks great in the living room, you could buy a futon sofa instead of a normal couch. The advantage: the sofa frame can be unfolded in a few simple steps, creating a comfortable and low lying surface. Some models are so flexible that you can even conjure up a second mattress from the backrest. Then two people can comfortably lie on the futon sofa bed.
Incidentally, such a sofa with a sleeping function is also practical in the guest room. During the day it serves as a cozy couch – at night as a comfortable guest bed if required. Because futon sofa beds are so popular, they are available in different colors and many individual designs.