There are many advantages to sleeping on a Japanese futon rather than a soft mattress, and they've been traditionally believed to help align the spine and promotes healthy posture.
Shortly after World War II, Americans adopted the futon trend as an homage to minimalism and economic bedding. However, the futons that we sleep on in the Western world are vastly different than the originals in Japan.
The Japanese version is a thin mat, usually no more than three or four inches thick. It’s placed on the floor with only a straw mat, called a “tatami,” underneath. You may be wondering why someone would want to sleep on something like this as it sounds hard and uncomfortable.
Surprisingly to some, these slim beds have a lot of advantages. One of our favorites is that this is a green bedding alternative. There’s no bulk, and in fact, you can roll these beds up for easy transport. Also, there are far fewer plastics and chemicals that are found in a lot of Western-style mattresses on the market currently.
If you’re looking to make a difference in the environment, and help your back in the process, you may want to look into a Japanese bed.
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Top 8 Japanese Futon Reviews
- Traditional rush grass outer
- Foam construction
- 2 inches thick
This traditional Japanese futon combines the look of the tatami mat with a soft foam layer inside to offer support and comfort. It even comes with a matching pillow!
When you’re not using it, it’s foldable and doubles as a mat for sitting. Because it’s so portable and easy to clean, it’s ideal for taking on camping trips, too.
Traditional tatami mats are heavy, but this version from Oriental Furniture is lightweight, making it a popular favorite for the home and travel.
Because this futon is foam and it’s in direct contact with the floor, there’s a higher chance for it to lose support and shape. We still think it will work well for most people, but if you’re on the heavy side, you may want to shop for another brand.
- Includes comforter and pillow
- 100% cotton cover
- 2.5 inches thick
- Made in Japan
This three-piece set is an entire bedding system that costs a fraction of what you’d expect to spend on a Western mattress.
Choose from twin, queen or king. The thickness is two-and-a-half inches and filled with a firm polyester pad. You’ll notice that the sleeping surface is probably firmer than what you’re used to, but it’s still supportive. Some people recommend buying two and layering them together until you get used to sleeping on a firmer surface.
One thing to note is that this product is not designed to last more than three to four years, but that is the case with many Japanese futons. Still, we think this is a greener and more economical solution because the materials are mostly biodegradable and those that aren’t take up much less space than a traditional mattress.
- Five sizes
- 100% cotton cover
- 3 inches thick
- Made in Japan
If you want an authentic Japanese bedding experience, look no further than the FULI Shiki. This futon is surprisingly soft and luxurious, given its economical price point. And while covers are sold separately, they are available in black, blue, gray, and white.
We like that the surface is anti-bacterial and dust mite resistant. If you live in a cooler climate and can’t hang your shiki futon out to dry daily, then this feature is a must.
The only downside is that the product is only designed to last a couple of years. You may be able to extend the life a bit by taking extra good care of it and hanging it out in the sun as often as possible but be prepared to replace this item within three years.
- King size option
- Microfiber and polyester construction
- 3 inches thick
If you’ve been reading these reviews and thinking to yourself, “wait a second. I want my bed to be a statement piece that has some style,” then the Colorful Mart Japanese futon could be exactly what you’re looking for. Choose from blue, gray, green, red or purple.
If you can’t decide, buy two! The price of this product is a bargain.
The three-inch thickness is ideal for most sleepers, even side sleepers. It’s also suitable for both adults and kids, especially because it comes in all standard sizes: twin, full, queen, and king.
There are instructions available to keep this shikibuton clean, and they’re fairly standard. Again, it can’t be washed, only spot cleaned. However, some reviewers claimed they washed theirs without damaging it.
- 100% rush grass
- Use as a rug or under mattress
- 0.5 inches thick
- Made in Japan
The Ikehiko tatami mat is a truly authentic experience. It’s made 100% of rush grass, so you’ll be able to smell the odor in your home. Some find this odor to be lovely, while others may complain.
It’s truly a matter of preference, but if you’re sleeping on the floor to better connect with nature, we think you’ll like this feature.
Keep in mind that this item is the mat only, and you’ll still need to acquire the futon to sleep on.
DHP 8-Inch Premium
- Hybrid construcion
- Double as a couch
- 8 inches thick
- More Western style
The DHP is more like the western futons that you’re accustomed to seeing. It’s got an eight-inch thickness, and as Henry Ford is famous for saying, “you can have it in any color you want, so long as it is black.”
The futon folds well in a frame, so it can double as a sofa when you’re not sleeping on it. It also has the tufted button feature that gives the mattress a more modern look.
The interior is coil and foam, so you get the benefit of a hybrid mattress that offers a springy bounce that combines with cushioning support.
At this price, you really can’t go wrong. Some other reviewers mentioned that they noticed wear and tear on the cover and that the springs didn’t hold up as expected. Granted, this is probably not something you’ll sleep on for twenty years, but if you want something affordable that will last a few years, this futon gets top marks.
Zinus Sleeping Mat
- All-foam construction
- Tri-fold design
- 4 inches thick
- CertiPUR-US® certified
This twin size sleeping mat is very much like a traditional shikibuton with a couple of subtle differences.
The most notable is that there’s a removable and washable cover, making this a top pick for convenience. It also has three layers of foam, which provides more support and comfort, especially for side sleepers.
Other features we love are the CertiPur-US certification, the charcoal additive that reduces odor and moisture, and the use of natural plant oil to replace some of the petroleum that’s often used in mattresses.
The only downside is that it’s only available in a twin size.
D&D Futon Furniture
- Cotton, foam, and polyester
- 80 inches long
- 3 inches thick
This Japanese futon is simplicity at its best. It’s got a basic roll-up design with the added benefit of ties to hold everything together.
At three inches thick, it won’t feel like a plush memory foam mattress, but many love how it fees on a sore back. It also doubles as a yoga or exercise mat, a play mat or cushion for seating during any imaginable occasion. It’s lightweight and portable, so feel free to take it anywhere!
Before you buy, please note that the mattress will come highly compressed, and it may take a couple of days of airing out to widen and lengthen to its true dimensions.
What is a Traditional Shikibuton Floor Mattress?
A shikibuton is a floor mattress. It’s also referred to as a shiki futon or a bedroll. It’s a slim cushion designed for sleeping. It’s a staple of Japanese culture and the people have been sleeping on them for thousands of years.
They’re normally three inches thick, though some are four inches. They may be stuffed with cotton, and often this cotton is organic. The Japanese lay these futons on top of a straw mat called a tatami mat, and they use a blanket and a slim-profile pillow when it’s time for bed. In the morning, the sleeper will often hang their shikibuton in the sun to freshen it up and kill any bacteria.
When it’s inside, these beds are rolled and either used as a cushion for seating or tucked away in a closet out of site.
If you’re starting to see how convenient these beds are and how they could take the hassle out of moving, you’re starting to get the picture of why these have maintained their popularity in Japan for so long.
Shikibuton Therapeutic Effects
Most of us tend to think that if we have back pain, then we should sleep on something soft and cushiony. However, the opposite is true! The reason is that a plush surface can cause the back to settle in an unnatural position that can make the back pain even worse.
Get More Info: How to Tell If Your Mattress Causing You Back Pain
The advantage of a shikibuton is that it’s firm, yet still supportive. It allows your back to form a natural alignment while still offering an ideal level of comfort so that you will be able to sleep peacefully.
Also, being nearer to the ground also has the effect of connecting better with nature. Even though you’re not technically touching the earth, sleeping on the floor most closely simulates what it’s like to sleep outside under the stars.
The use of natural fabric is a clear advantage over the plastics, chemicals and petroleum products in Western mattresses. And, if you do opt for an organic mattress at a traditional outlet, then be prepared to pay a pretty penny.
By contrast, a Japanese bed is usually green by nature and costs a fraction of what you’d pay for a memory foam bed.
Prevents Night Sweats
Even though advances in memory foam have allowed it to sleep cooler, people who tend to run hot still have some challenges with this material. When they switch to Japanese bedding, they’re more likely to notice that they sleep much cooler.
The reason is that the authentic Japanese mattresses are 100% cotton. Cotton is a natural fabric that wicks away and absorbs moisture from the body.
The absolute worst thing about moving is having to move a mattress from one place to another. And if you have more than one bed, then that hassle is multiplied. With a shikibuton, all you have to do is roll it or fold it, and you’re all set.
It’s lightweight and portable. Some people even bring theirs camping!
The advantage of a Japanese bed is that you can stow it away when it’s not in use. The only time it’s out and taking up room is when you’re unconscious. What we love about this is that all of your rooms will now seem so much larger and you can do so much more with them once you don’t have to decorate around a giant king or queen-size mattress.
Western beds cause many to suffer allergies for two reasons:
- The coils or dense foam can trap dust mites, pollen, and environmental pollutants
- The chemicals used in the bed’s material can trigger an allergic reaction
Sunlight kills bacteria and has a cleansing effect. That’s why the Japanese hang their shikibutons outside, and you should too if you get one. Exposure to the sun’s rays kill bacteria and other allergy-causing factors. And when you beat the bedding, usually with a tennis racket or something similar, it knocks off dust and pollen, too.
Can you imagine trying to do this outside with a memory foam or innerspring bed?
Good for Back and Posture
Some doctors and chiropractors are starting to recommend Japanese bedding to help with pain and conditions like scoliosis. The theory that a soft mattress is ideal for healing and health has long ago been debunked, but we’re still somewhat resistant to ditch the fluff and adopt a more streamlined style of bed.
Beds are expensive! Even with online bedding companies offering fantastic deals, you can still get a futon bed for less than half the price of a decent memory foam bed.
If you’re not ready to take the plunge and make a shikibuton your primary sleeping surface, try getting one bed for a spare or a guest bedroom, and then see how you (and your guests) like it.
If you’re used to a plush mattress, you’re in for a rude awakening. The Japanese futons are known for having a firmer surface. While this is usually the healthier option, it takes some getting used to.
If you’ve been sleeping on a traditional Western bed for 40 years, it’s understandable that you might not fall in love with a shikibuton overnight. It’ll take some time to adjust.
Difficult to Find
Sadly, these beds aren’t available everywhere. In fact, most futon stores won’t even have them. Fortunately, we live in the age of the Internet, where just about everything is available online.
Even though cotton helps wick away moisture, keep in mind that the human body loses up to a pint glass of water every night when we sleep. Some of that gets evaporated, but a lot of it ends up on the sleeping surface.
There are a few things you can do to prevent too much moisture build-up:
- Invest in a tatami mat to put under your shikibuton
- Make sure you use a cover and clean it regularly
- Whenever possible, hang your shikibuton out to dry, and expose it to sunlight
- Flip models that can be flipped (check your care instructions). If flipping is not possible, then regularly rotate the bed so that the head area is now at the feet, and vice versa.
Japanese Shiki Futon Care Tips
Keep it Dry
Don’t leave your shikibuton out in the same place day after day. Instead, allow it to air dry in the sun on a regular basis. The sun not only dries it, but it also kills odor-causing bacteria. The Japanese do this weekly, if not daily, but if that’s not convenient or doable based on where you live, then opt for two times per year.
Another tip is to flip it frequently. When it’s new, make it a goal to flip it once a week. After doing this for a couple of months, you can switch to flipping it once per month.
Fold it During the Day
When it’s indoors and not in use, keep it rolled and store it in a closet. Leaving it out and exposed is an invitation for moisture, including spilling accidents.
Regular fluffing serves to both keep the futon dry, and it also helps it to hold its shape and fluffiness. To fluff your futon, hang it up to dry and beat it with a tennis racket.
Use a Protective Pad
Some shiki futons come with a protective cover or pad. If yours doesn’t, then invest in one. Ideally, get one that’s washable, so you’ll be able to keep your sleeping surface clean on a regular basis.
View Our Complete Guide: Top Rated Mattress Protectors
Frequently Asked Questions
Are these comfortable to use every day on a Japanese floor?
Yes, they are indeed comfortable for everyday use! The Japanese have been sleeping like this for thousands of years, and they boast longevity and good health well into their golden years.
Remember, that it may take a few nights to get used to this new way of sleeping. But, if you give it a chance, you may find that you wonder how you ever slept on a bulky bed.
Are Japanese futons recommended for guests?
Because shiki futons aren’t widely recognized yet, we recommend proceeding with caution. If your guests are health conscious and open-minded, they may love the idea of trying something new, and they’re likely to thank you for exposing them to the wonders of Japanese bedding.
If your guests are more traditional and are battling other health challenges, they may take offense at the idea of sleeping so close to the floor.
Ultimately, our advice is to gauge the personality and mood of your guests before offering this as a sleeping solution. While this style of futon is well-suited for just about everyone, not everyone is open to trying something new.
Find Out More: Best Mattress for Guests
Does it look good in a minimalist bedroom?
Yes, this type of bed is the perfect fit for a minimalist bedroom. It’s both compact and low profile, so it won’t take up a lot of room or cause any clutter. Further, you can roll it and pack it during waking hours. The result is a bedroom that’s wide open and has much more room. This is minimalism at its finest.
Check Out For More: Minimalist Bedroom Ideas
Why do Japanese people sleep on the floor?
This question has puzzled people for decades. The Japanese are known for technological advances. So, it seems odd that instead of adopting a high-tech bed that many choose to sleep on the floor.
Part of it stems from Buddha’s philosophy on minimalism. Another reason is that the tatami grass mats provide relaxing properties that help induce sleep. But, perhaps the most dominant reason has to do with the size of Japanese homes.
They’re quite small, so from a practical standpoint, it makes sense to have a portable folding bed that allows for more space in the home to be enjoyed during waking hours.
If you’ve never considered Japanese bedding before, it may be time to think about making the switch. These beds boast lower prices, greener fabrics, and portability that no other bed can match.
You may be nervous about committing. That’s understandable as it’s a huge transition. How about trying one of these futons in a spare bedroom and testing it out first? If you decide to go for it, let us know what you think!