There are surprising advantages to sleeping on a Japanese futon rather than a soft mattress, as they've been traditionally believed to help align the spine and promote 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 from Japan’s originals.
Surprisingly to some, these slim beds have many 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 found in many Eastern-style futons and sleeping mats.
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.
The Top 4 Best Japanese Futon Mattresses
- Oriental Furniture – Best Overall Japanese Futon Mattress
- Emoor Japanese Futon Set – Best Luxury Japanese Futon Mattress
- FULI Shiki Japanese Futon Mattress– Best Cooling Japanese Futon Mattress
- Luxton Home Japanese Futon – Best Budget Japanese Futon Mattress
Are you confident that a Japanese futon mattress is the perfect option for you? If so, continue exploring this page!
If you're unsure or want to learn about more great mattress options available then we recommend you check out our best mattress guide for 2023. It is a great starting place for most mattress shoppers because it includes a diverse list of mattress picks based on various preferences, styles, and needs. It also includes links to an additional 60+ best mattress pages from Sleep Advisor (example: best bed-in-a-box).
Top 8 Japanese Futon Reviews
Oriental Furniture – Best Overall Japanese Futon Mattress
This traditional Japanese futon combines the look of the tatami mat with a soft foam layer inside to deliver support and comfort and includes a matching pillow. When you’re not using the pillow, it’s foldable, doubling as a mat for sitting or meditating.
Traditional tatami mats are heavy, but this version from Oriental Furniture is lightweight, making it a popular favorite for the home and travel.
The outer layer is made with traditional rush grass, wrapped over soft foam for a cozy feel. The bed is completely foldable and portable, making it perfect for those who live life on the move or enjoy van life.
What do we love about it?
- The portable design makes it great to throw into a backpack and take along on camping trips.
- This foldable futon comes with a beautiful exterior, making it a decorative home addition and for portable needs.
Emoor Futon Set – Best Luxury Japanese Futon Mattress
This three-piece set is an entire bedding system that costs a fraction of what you’d expect to spend on a Western mattress, duvet, and pillow, making it both an environmentally and economically sound choice.
The mat’s thickness is two-and-a-half inches, filled with a firm polyester pad, and comes in twin, queen or king sizes. You’ll notice that the sleeping surface is likely firmer than what you’re used to, but it’s still soft and supportive. Some customers have recommended buying two and layering them together as your spine acclimates to sleeping on a firmer surface.
Why did it make the list?
- Part of what makes this option a terrific value is its inclusion of a comforter and pillow in the price.
- This product makes for an excellent option for overnight guests, especially in small spaces, as this bed folds up for easy storage.
FULI Shiki Mattress – Best Cooling Japanese Futon Mattress
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. This airy Japanese futon is excellent for providing support, comfort, and an environmentally sound retreat at the end of the day.
We like that the surface is anti-bacterial and dust mite resistant, which, 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 inner stuffing is made from a mixture of polyester and polyurethane foam to provide a comfortable combination of support and pressure relief.
What do we love about it?
- This product makes an excellent option for someone needing a bed long-term or looking to take their lives on the road and needs something more portable.
- The futon is enormously convenient as it’s made to be rolled up during the day to provide versatile floor space.
Luxton Home Futon – Best Budget Japanese Futon Mattress
Luxton Home’s Japanese Shiki Futon Foldable Mattress is specially designed for sleep and travel. Whether you travel on occasion or all the time, this futon’s lightweight design and easy foldable setup can help you get a good night’s rest no matter the time zone or destination.
The product’s cover is made with 100-percent natural and organic cotton, ensuring you are getting a more sustainable and safe mattress. Inside the futon is a soft filling that offers a slight cushion. Don’t let the item’s thin build fool, though; These types of futons are made to be comfortable and promote optimal spine alignment for good back health.
Why we love it
- Luxton’s Home Shiki Futon is made in the United States, which is great for shoppers who value purchasing a locally-sourced product.
- The mattress can also double as a yoga or meditation mat.
What is a Traditional Shikibuton Floor Mattress?
A shikibuton is a floor mattress, and can be 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 sight.
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. Think of investing in a firm mattress for better spinal alignment.
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 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.
Pros of Japanese Futon mattress
The use of natural fabric is a clear advantage over the plastics, chemicals, and petroleum products in Western mattresses. 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 the material to sleep cooler, people who tend to run hot still have some challenges with the foam. 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 their mattress 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 because of their mattress 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?
Read more about mattresses for allergies here.
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.
Learn More: Best Mattress for Scoliosis
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.
Cons of Japanese Futon Bed
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.
For More Information: Mattress Firmness Guide
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 about Japanese Futons
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!