lifestyle

Are futons awesome or simply awful?

68 Comments
By RocketNews24

This week, we have one little question to ask you: are Japanese futons awesome, or are they awful?

One thing that divides groups of even the most hardcore Japanophiles when they arrive in the country is the issue of whether futons – that is to say the thin, padded mattresses and not the Western-style pull-out beds – are an invention of pure genius or the work of the devil.

To some, futons are the perfect solution to living in a smaller property: they can be folded up and hidden in a cupboard when not in use, they’re comfy, and they can be spread pretty much anywhere large enough to accommodate a horizontal person. And, hey, millions of Japanese can’t be wrong, can they?

But to others, futons are simply awful. Too hard, too close to the floor (ever seen a spider scurry across the bedroom floor at night? Now imagine you’re lying in a futon and picture that again), and one just one more thing to have to deal with in the morning.

Yes, the issue of whether futons are awesome or awful has never truly been settled. That is, until now. This weekend, we – the readers of RocketNews24, its writers, and, hell, maybe even those guys who keep stealing our stuff – are going to settle this once and for all.

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68 Comments
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Awesome !

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Perhaps they are both awesome and awful or neither awesome nor awful. Why limit the world to black and white?

10 ( +15 / -5 )

Depends. I prefer beds over futons, for beds are more comfortable, plus I have a very expensive adjustable mattress, with futons I always get a stiff back no matter how thick it is, I just can't get too comfortable or have a really good sleep on them, but one thing that I do like about futons, you can fold them up quickly and put them away faster than making a bed, takes less space, so it just depends, but both have pros and cons.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

"hidden in a cupboard"

You need way more than a "cupboard." The various seasonal bedding takes up a huge chuck of closet space that I'd rather use for clothes and accessories.

I find beds are more efficient, because you can use them like sofas while reading or watching TV, for taking naps, for laying out clothes while dressing and laundry, etc. and you don't have put them away or take them out on a daily basis.

They also keep you high above the layer of dust - and even mites - that get into tatami mats and carpets.

12 ( +15 / -3 )

I went off futons the day I had my first encounter with a cockroach.

11 ( +13 / -3 )

Simply awful - I'd much rather my Tempur Original.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

I've been sleeping on futons since I arrived years ago, but decided when we move later this year I'm going to get a bed. Jeff Lee summed it up well.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Well, if you're a side-sleeper like me, one night on a futon equals 3 days of hip pain.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

Futons are hella uncomfortable and a pain in the ass to spread out and clean up every day. A bed also offers extra storage space below the frame, which is another nice perk. This is one of those really inefficient things Japanese cling on to to preserve their "culture" despite how unpractical they are.

4 ( +8 / -6 )

When I first arrived in Japan, my fiancé (who lived in the Kansai area) had reserved a room for me at the Tokyo YWCA and I was disappointed to have to spend my first night in Japan on a western style bed... There were two beds in the room, one with an enormous "hollow" in the middle. I had a message from his brother in France for another Japanese friend living in the Kanto area, who, finding out where I was staying, invited me to his family's place and gave ma a tatami room complete with a futon.

After our marriage we continued with the furon until the day I became very much pregnant... That's when I found folding them up and putting them away, taking them out again in the evening became just too much... I've stuck to sleeping on a King size bed ever since !

8 ( +7 / -0 )

I like them in a ryokan or minshuku, but never in my own home.

7 ( +8 / -2 )

InitiY me and my J-Wife used Futons a good quality Futon is OK, but we switched to a bed around the time our son was born.

You need Japanese storage shelfs to put a Futo a Futon away nicely and they a fair amount of storage space.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I've slept on a futon ever since I came to Japan 20 years ago. I prefer them, though I do enjoy sleeping in beds at hotels when I/we travel.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Futon is OK but it can get moldy pretty easily, and that's why I'd rather use a Western-style bed.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Western style beds require a separate bedroom but futons don't so the size of the home often dominates the choice. Futons require cupboard space but then traditional homes are designed with those. Futons should be rolled and not folded to keep the shape.

"Futon" is an English word derived from the Japanese word. Westerners imagine a futon to be a mattress on a wooden frame which folds back into a sofa.

The Japanese bed consists of the Shikibution, one or two mattress laid on the floor. The Kakebuton or blanket. The Makura or pillow.

The shikibuton: Shiki comes from the word hiku meaning to lay, and when attached to another word, the futon is now pronounced with a b and becomes buton, forming the word shikibuton. Kakebuton: Kakeru is the verb meaning to lay on top, therefore the kakebuton is the blanket. The Makura is a small pillow stuffed with buckwheat, beans or rice.

Used a Japanese style bed for decades, including before living in Japan and a long time since living here. But about six years ago we changed to a western style with a very heavy 25 cm (10") deep mattress. This was because of our age and we also live in a very large house. We still keep the futons for guests visiting or staying over but we also have a couple of folding beds which are good for overnighters.

Western style beds are not free of care and need to be turned every month and vacuumed every week or when the sheets are changed. In hot humid season we pull back all the bedding and open the window to dry the bed. We also use every season a bug powder.

I enjoy sleeping on a futon bit equally I enjoy a good bed.

6 ( +9 / -4 )

You can't fall backwards onto a futon.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

@ Tessa: Exactly. Opening my eyes to a slight tickle and seeing a cockroach on my midriff made me wish I had a futon on the ceiling as well. After that, it's been western bedding. But a futon in a large tatami room at an onsen is quite relaxing.

2 ( +2 / -1 )

Wait - people put AWAY their futon?! Someone tell my daughter!

11 ( +10 / -0 )

We have the best of both worlds a tatami bed with futons. Love futons but not the floor and as mentioned above various critters that scurry.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Futons are good for one or two nights at a ryokan, then the back starts to go. They are much cleaner than mattresses in that they can (and should be) hung out in the sun every day if the weather is good. It's pretty rare for a double/queen/king-size mattress to see direct sunlight because they are quite heavy to move around so the number of little bugs must be scarily high. Having said that, I love my bed and my mattress.

4 ( +4 / -2 )

Living on my own right now I initially used a Futon again but my back starting acting up.

Now I use an idea common where I come from, went to MUJI and got myself a Mattress with legs and storage boxes for underneath. Throw a blanket and some cushions on it and it doubles as a Sofa during the day.

Surprised we don''t see more beds that fold into a Sofa or seat here, handy for guests. But have seen some low wooden frames for Futons.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Nice bed at home along with a pullout bed couch & two lazy boy chairs so lots of place to layout.

Office I have futons which is ok but I think I prefer the bed honestly & yeah putting futons in/out of their closest is a chore as is putting them out(like right now)

I am ok with both BUT don't like thin futons!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Sleep on what you like.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

We've found the best solution for current living situation//muscle strength/health conditions: a wooden "sunoko" bed frame with a futon set on top. The height is lower than a typical bed frame in the U.S., but that's good as I'm short and it's easier to climb into bed. And it's still high enough to use the space underneath for some storage. No drawers, so it's more flexible. It's easy to roll the futon to the head or foot to get at the slatted wooden sunoko, which is in two sections and can be easily lifted up for cleaning or sorting the items stored underneath. Futons left out on a floor too long can easily mold but with these beds being off the floor and with the ventilation provided by the sunoko that hasn't been a problem. Ours have little shelves at the head handy for eyeglasses, and a socket for plugging in a clock or charging a phone or whatever.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Depends on situation for me. For a sleepover, futon. For permanent housing? BED. Spent nearly arm and a leg on a queen sized mattress and frame. Will be buying a twin for my 2nd bedroom and then add 2 futons for any extra sleepover guests.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I'll do a headcount of my adult students next week regarding the bed vs. futon thing, but I suspect I already know the answer.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I loved my futon until I injured my back. Now it's too hard and I'm going back to a traditional bed.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If futons were so good, why don't all the top end hotels in Tokyo have them? Oh yeah, that's right, because they are junk. They only exist because they are cheap and 'cultural'.

A good quality western bed is absolutely leagues ahead of a futon, which is basically a glorified dogs basket. Japanophiles will downvote this. People who understand quality will not.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

Futons are not bad, but like another reader here,Tempur mattresses on a proper bed are unbeatable.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

If futons were so good, why don't all the top end hotels in Tokyo have them? Oh yeah, that's right, because they are junk. They only exist because they are cheap and 'cultural'.

And all of the top end onsens do provide them. The difference is in clientele. Top end hotels have high levels of foreign guests, most of whom are not comfortable with the idea of futons. Onsens clientele are almost entirely Japanese, who usually like futons.

A good quality western bed is absolutely leagues ahead of a futon, which is basically a glorified dogs basket. Japanophiles will downvote this. People who understand quality will not.

I understand quality, having spent many a night in top level hotels. And I'm no Japanaphile. But I still prefer a futon.

0 ( +2 / -3 )

A good quality western bed is absolutely leagues ahead of a futon, which is basically a glorified dogs basket.

It depends on the quality of the futon.

5 ( +5 / -1 )

Yeah Futon quality makes a big difference as does the care of it.

Know many Japanese who hardly ever hang theirs, etc.

Strangely enough the Futon is also rather popular in Europe and many other places.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think the cons of futons outweigh the pros in terms of number, but the fact that they save a lot of space (even if left unfolded a lot of the time, you don't need a frame) gives them the win in my books. Still, I once was getting ready to lie down when a cockroach scurried across my pillow and I've had nightmares ever since.

1 ( +1 / -2 )

I'm not sure why people seem to think cockroaches can't also run across beds.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

I'm not sure why people seem to think cockroaches can't also run across beds.

Cockroaches, in my experience, aren't really big on climbing stuff like spiders. How many times have you seen a cockie up on the wall, or on the kitchen counter?

-3 ( +2 / -4 )

Japanese cockroaches actually fly. We never have much of a problem with them because we put out the little plastic things of poison but you can also make your own with baking powder and alum I think? Anyway, never see more than a couple the whole season. Keep the home clean and free from food droppings on the floor. Important not sleep with your mouth wide open. Sailors who did that in the navy usually ended up with a large cockroach dropping in, we called them Bombay runners because of the huge size.

4 ( +3 / -1 )

Futons are fine, but after a night out on the sauce a bed is better.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Beds get dirty and sag. You cannot air it out.

My futon was ¥50,000 airsleep.jp Great futons. By the way, never ever hit your futon with one of those long things to get the dust out. If you do happen to have dani, then you imbed the eggs deeper.

Cockroaches defy gravity. They will climb anything, so those thinking a bed post will be too slippery, they will just fly up there to scare you. Only the females fly by the way. The big black ones. The smaller brown ones with the bumpy back are males.

4 ( +4 / -2 )

I've had a cockroach crawl across my stomach too. While in a bed, in the south, of the United States of America. One of the reasons I like life in northern Japan is that we almost never see them here.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Who would say futons are awful? They rule!

Got cockroaches? I scattered some of those poison thingys around the apartment, and in the 2 months since I have seen exactly 2 baby roaches, and just 1 medium sized one that was hanging around outside the genkan and scurried in when I opened the door, lol.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Used to have chronic lower back pain. After switching to a futon and sleeping on my backside I'm pain-free.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Futons give me a pain in the hip and shoulders. Whenever I have to use them, I stack 2-3 futons when available.

One advantage I see with futons is that you can easily place them on your balcony to get some sun, and to let the pubic hair fall on the passersby below...

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I have been sleeping on a futon for a couple of years now. Now that I am used to it I find it comfortable for my back.

If I stay at an expensive Western-style hotel with a really nice bed I find it a luxurious change. I do really enjoy staying at ryokan too, though...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Are futons awesome or simply awful?

Glad to say that in my ten years or so in Japan, I never had to sleep on one. And, my large (by Japanese standards) western-style apartment and queen-sized bed were always a hit with the womwn I dated there. So, my own "research" would say that many Japanese women are not especially fond of them either.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

One advantage I see with futons is that you can easily place them on your balcony to get some sun, and to let the pubic hair fall on the passersby below...

You've just reminded me of another thing I hate about them ... sunny Sunday mornings being woken by the upstairs neighbours beating their futons and sending all this nasty stuff down to my balcony. and I mean nasty.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I find futons to be awesome simply because I have had my fair share of moving place to place and would like to keep furniture and things like that at a minimum.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

All depends on the futon and bed. A good futon can be as comfy as a good bed. The key for me is the pillow. I hate with a passion the Japanese hard soba pillows. I always carry my own pillow when going to a hotel in Japan.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

depending if your a hard or soft surface sleeper. futons are needed if you live in a small apartent/house. beds are a lot more convenient for larger homes. beds are much warmer in winter ive found, not on cold floors.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

beds are much warmer in winter ive found, not on cold floors.

Futons are best on tatami, not on cold floors.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Awesome.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

JBoy: "Queen" size, suits you does it? We can imagine. Real impression: King Size only, dude.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Team futon. Having to stand up from the floor is surely a problem for elderly not used to it. But I don't understand the people that have back problems cause by futons. Isn't it psychological ? It's the contrary for me. My back is really weird (according to doctors) and that's sleeping on bed mattresses or sofas (and sitting on chairs) that could give me back-aches. That's if I hadn't avoided them since my teens as advised by the physiologists that saved me from back pains, disability and heavy operations in case my back condition had worsened. In Summer, I often sleep on a beach towel directly on the tatami or on a yoga mat. I've slept on the floor or on a bench in hotels to avoid a bed that was too much like a marshmallow.

I hate with a passion the Japanese hard soba pillows.

My fav pillows. Well tastes and colors... There exist beds from hell. At the grandparents, we shared the antic ones that are shorter than you and with a middle hole. And there are the jealous beds that decide to fall apart while you're starting... action. Special holiday rental condo prizes for the convertible sofa-bed that suddenly folds back with you inside and for the closet bed (the type you push up along the wall) that suddently falls back onto the breakfast table...

How many times have you seen a cockie up on the wall, or on the kitchen counter?

Countless times. They run over the ceiling and let themselves fall on you. Plus they love hiding their eggs under beds. And there are many other insect creeps living safely under and inside mattresses as you can't reach them... while you can pass the futon in the washing machine once in a while and you avoid the invasion.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A good futon...brilliant.

A cheap one....terrible.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I could never sleep on a regular Japanese futon - way too hard! But, I love my Nishikawa muatsubuton (the really nice egg crate type). Hubby and I use ours on a raised wood frame, and it's really comfortable. And, if you have roach problems definitely get some Combat, or equivalent. I put out new ones all over the house in spring as soon as it starts to warm up. We may see one or two roaches per summer at most, and sometimes make it through with none. Summer in Japan is the time you want to make sure to keep all food put away, and make sure to do all of the dishes before bedtime!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The chronic lower back & shoulder pain was too much for me to endure, so I shelled out the big $$$ (or yen, if you will) for a proper bed. Haven't looked back! If you don't move around much in your sleep, then a futon is fine I guess. Let's be honest though, they're mainly for those living in somewhat 'confined' (ie. shoebox size) dwellings who need the extra space at a moment's notice.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

We have a 4 or 5 cm softer tempur-type mattress with a similar thickness firmer one on top of a wooden bed with two lines of slats, all from Muji. Firm but giving, and the mattresses can be rolled up smaller than any futon. I just hope we can get the same outside of Japan when we move.

Futons or beds - try asking the same question in winter when the air up to 10 cm above the floor is noticeably colder than above.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I do not know why, but I cannot sleep well on a bed. I stay awake for a long time before falling into sleep on a bed.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Slept on a futon while staying with a friend in Nagoya for a few days... my back ached for a week afterwards.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

When talking about back pains there are actually two types. The one you experience are just stiffness of the muscles due to the hardness of the futon mats since futon will always be more firm then a bed.

The one people needs to worry about is pain due to pressuring the nerves within the vertebra. This occurs when the mattress is too soft and the vertebra is not supported properly to maintain a bridge shape. This occurs as you lose muscle and gain weight. A futon can't sink beyond the thickness of the mattress so it supports you back in maintaining a bridge shape no matter how much out of shape you are.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Futons are best on tatami, not on cold floors. actually being near the floor is where all the cold air sits, a good quality bedmatress will insulate a lot better than a tatami mat and futon ever will.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

When you are dead tired, doesn't matter. Do not need to worry about roll and fall - good. If you have back pain and knee injuries, then it is hard to get out - bad.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Futons must be better than mattresses. I make it a rule to always conduct my life in the manner people who didn't know better did ninety years ago.

That's why I sleep on a futon, smoke fifty a day and keep my perishables in a wooden box with a block of ice on top.

OK, so I have a bit of a cough and all my joints ache, and I wake up covered in dust and cockroach turd, and I have explosive diahorrea all the time, but so what? Traditions must be preserved.

The old ways are the best ways.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Love futon. I sleep deeply and no back pain since switching to futon on the floor.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

After the first 2 years in Japan, 23 years later I cannot sleep on a bed anymore. Futons are the best.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Simply Awesome :-D !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Futons are really awesome and inexpensive too. Another benefit is that it is made of natural fibers . So it’s suitable for people with allergies . I have bought one for my mom from Surplus furniture and mattress showroom, Canada.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I actually arrived in Fukuoka last year at my shared house with my wife, with a Wabuton waiting for me that I purchased -- in fact I wrote a bit about it here: http://nihonscope.com/japanese-culture/authentic-futons-from-japan/ -- BUT.. it's a tad thin, but honestly I feel it's good for the back and it's comfortable none the less... except I'm a bit tall and sometimes my feet will stick out the bottom of the sheets... Also being on the floor in a small little apartment it seems to get a lot of weird crumb stuff on the sheets... I don't know why, we take our shoes off and sweep all the time. _

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I would like to be the first person on here to say that a double-wide hammock (not netted or with a bar), a decent underquilt, and a medium kakebuton is superior to anything else. If you have bugs, get a hammock bug net.

Get a portable hammock stand for the hammock. You can't fall out of the hammock unless you try to fall out, and even then it takes a bunch of effort. You won't feel the need to roll anyway... Rolling is because you're uncomfortable. Hammocks conform to your body when you lay in them right.

Beds cost $1000s of dollars (USD) and are hard to move. Lol if you want to wash the bed. The stuff I listed costs under $200, and can be washed in the same load of laundry (excluding the hammock stand lol). The most expensive items are probably the hammock stand and the underquilt. Hammocks are like $20-40 a piece. I prefer cheap parachute material hammocks.

You might need a few thumbtacks if you get a bugnet, as it needs to be held up by string.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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