Japanese futon have recently risen in popularity worldwide, so this article will introduce a careful selection of shiki-buton, kake-buton, tatami mats and rugs that are made in Japan and can be bought online. We will also briefly go into the history of the futon, which is important to know when selecting a futon. To top it all off, we have scored several items, including futon, based on materials, design, and ease of use to aid you in your shopping journey.
Types of Japanese Futon and Their History
“Shiki-buton” is the name used for futon used as mattresses. Japan has had several versions of mattresses throughout history, including ones using “tatami,” a famous type of Japanese flooring material made from straw or rush, that originated during the Nara period (710 – 794) and has a history that dates back approximately 1,300 years. As shown in the picture above, long ago, aristocrats would sleep in kimono and “haori” (outer coat) atop layers of tatami. Tatami was quite expensive, so commoners would sleep on “mushiro,” another type of flooring material made by weaving together straw. The aforementioned shiki-buton, which are cloth mattresses stuffed with cotton, came about in the middle of the Edo period (1681 – 1780) and were quite pricey items, out of reach of the commoners. They started becoming available to the masses from the late Meiji period (around 1900) to the beginning of the Showa period (around 1930), but even so, most farmers still used mushiro. Nowadays, there are many companies that produce high-quality shiki-buton.
Kake-buton are best equated to comforters, but as mentioned before, aristocrats in the olden days would sleep with kimono in lieu of kake-buton. When straw and paper became more popular among the common folk, “kami-fusuma” (Japanese washi paper made with straw) became the norm, and many people would sleep on futon made from washi paper with dyed rims. Kake-buton originated from “yogi” (also called “kaimaki”), which were thick kimono stuffed with cotton, and became widespread with the development of cotton cultivation after the Sengoku period (1467 – 1590). The square kake-buton that we are familiar with today originated in the middle of the Edo period (1681 – 1780), and were considered expensive items along with shiki-buton. Similar to shiki-buton, they became more readily available to the masses in the first half of the 19th century, and there are currently many manufacturers competing with each other to produce high-quality kake-buton.
The Pros of Japanese Futon
They Are Easy to Carry and Keep Clean
Unlike mattresses, shiki-buton can easily be carried, as shown in the picture above. Japanese houses are generally smaller than Western ones. Beds didn’t make their way into Japan until the 1920s, so it was customary back then to sleep on tatami flooring. However, because Japan gets quite humid, leaving the futon spread out on the floor will invite mold, which is why they are put away in “oshi-ire” (a closet-like space that is closed behind “fusuma”(*1) Japanese sliding doors). To make this daily ritual easier, shiki-buton were made to be easy to carry. Direct sunlight easily dries and kills bacteria (*2), so you can see many households drying their futon outside on their verandas.
*1: Nowadays, there are many modern designs that use wooden doors rather than fusama.
*2: For the most part, the UV rays from direct sunlight can kill bacteria and ticks, but it cannot completely rid futon of these pests. Many people use deodorizing sprays to disinfect the futon, and there are also washing machines made specifically for futon. However, keep in mind that patterned futon may become discolored or faded.
Great for Lower Back Pain
As shiki-buton are laid directly on top of tatami mats, it is more difficult for one’s hips to sink down in comparison to regular mattresses. For this reason, many people buy shiki-buton to help with lower back pain, or even lay shiki-buton out on top of a bed frame. However, there is no scientific evidence that confirms that shiki-buton helps with all sorts of lower back pain. There are high-end mattresses that are more likely to help with this pain, and it is imperative that you do enough research to buy the bedding that is best for you.
Facts About Japanese Futon You Probably Don’t Know
It Is Common to Put a Cover on Them
As futon are rather big, they can be difficult to wash, so it is common to have sheets or a cover on them. These keep them from being covered in dirt and grime, and it is easier to keep them clean by just washing the covers. There are covers for both shiki and kake-buton.
You Can’t Wash All Futon
Japanese futon are commonly stuffed with cotton or down, but one must keep in mind which can and can’t be washed. Nowadays, it is popular to wash futon at large-scale washing machines located at laundromats across Japan, but there are many futon that cannot be washed, whether they are stuffed with cotton or down. Washing these futon can lead to a deterioration in quality, including the stuffing becoming unbalanced or the cotton hardening.
Featured Futon Products
1. FULI Japanese Traditional Shiki Futon (shikibuton) High Grade Floor Mattress
FULI is a leading brand in exporting Japanese-made products. This king-size futon is big enough for any sleeping situation, and it has a thick, soft padding. The price is quite reasonable considering the quality, and it is made out of cotton, meaning that it dries quite quickly. It is stuffed with polyester and polyurethane, giving it a lovely, cushion-like firmness.
Size: King (75″ x 79″ x 2-1/2″ ) (190.5 cm x 200.66 cm x 6.35 cm)
Item Thickness: 2.5” (6.35 cm)
Fabric: 100% Cotton
Stuffing: 100% Polyester and Polyurethane
2. EMOOR Japanese Traditional Mattress Futon 6-fold
The brand EMOOR is a relatively new company, having been established in 2006. With their vision being to “liven up the world through sleep,” this brand is a distributor of sleeping goods and develops and sells items that help you get a comfortable sleep. This full-size futon mattress was created with the intention of being used together with a mattress. For this reason, this product is on the thinner side, and it is not recommended to use it on its own. It is made out of cotton, meaning that it dries quickly, and using it versus just a mattress will bring your sleep to another level.
Size: Full (55” x 79”) (139.7 cm x 200.66 cm)
Fabric: 100% Cotton
Stuffing: 100% Polyester
3. EMOOR Japanese Ultra-Compact Futon Set with Storage Case, Twin Size.
This futon mattress, comforter, and pillow set also come from EMOOR. Even in Japan, there are few futon that are this compact, as you can easily store it just by wrapping it with rubber bands. Its compactability means that it is somewhat lacking in thickness, but as it is densely packed, it is quite sturdy. It is a convenient item that is more suitable as a simple bedding set-up rather than for everyday use.
Size: Futon mattress: 39” x 83” (100 cm x 210 cm) Comforter: 59” x 83” (150 cm x 210 cm) Pillow: 17” x 25” (43 cm x 63 cm) When in the case: 20” x 24” x 15” (50.8 cm x 60.96 cm x 38.1 cm) (11 lbs / 4.5 kg)
4. Tokyo Nishikawa Wool Shiki-buton
This shiki-buton is from a long-established futon maker, Nishikawa, which was established 455 years ago and is one of Japan’s leading futon makers, having been at the forefront of the industry for many years. The fabric is made out of 100% cotton, and the backside is antibacterial as well as odor and tick-resistant, making it quite the hygienic product. The stuffing is 100% wool, meaning it has great moisture absorption, and does not get musty easily. As expected of Nishikawa, this is a top-quality futon sold at an incredibly reasonable price. However, just note that even though it is king-sized, it is king-sized according to Japanese standards, so it may be smaller than what you expected.
Size: King (180 cm x 210 cm / 70.86” x 82.67”)
Fabric: 100% Cotton
Stuffing: 100% Wool
5. EMOOR Comforter CLASSE
This is a full-size, 100% cotton kake-buton. EMOOR continues to pursue comfortable sleep, and as expected, this is a high-quality product. The stuffing is antibacterial as well as odor and tick-resistant, and is made with special chemical-free cotton, making it an amazing product available for quite a reasonable price. You can even choose how much stuffing you want in the product depending on how you’ll use it—the ideal amount changes based on the season and the area you’re living in. And with its simple design, it’ll go great in any room!
Size: 75” x 83” (190 cm x 210 cm)
Filling: 4.2lbs (1.9kg) *for winter
Fabric: 100% Cotton
Stuffing: 100% Cotton
6. Koushu Umofuton Kake-buton
This Koushu Umofuton Kake-buton is regarded as one of the top products in the futon world, made with down washed in the rich, natural waters at the base of Mt. Fujiーthe cleanliness being over twice the national average. Each futon is lovingly created by experienced craftspeople, and as the fabric is woven with extra-fine cotton at a high density, it is breathable but also tick-resistant as well as soft to the touch. They use Polish White Mother goose down, which is light and warm, so you’re guaranteed a luxurious product.
Size: 210 cm × 210 cm (82.67” x 82.67”)
Filling: 2.4 kg (5.29 lbs)
Fabric: 100% Cotton
Stuffing: 95% Polish White Mother Goose Down, 5% Feathers
Brand: Koushu Umofuton
7. EMOOR 100% Cotton Comforter Cover
This is a futon cover, perfect to be bought along with a kake-buton. It is queen-size, sturdy, and comes with convenient fasteners. It is 100% cotton and has high absorption and wicking properties, so it can be used year-round. It can also be washed, so it is easy to keep clean. It is high quality, as expected of EMOOR, and compactable. You can choose from 10 designs—whichever best suits your taste!
Size: 83” x 83” (210 cm x 210 cm)
Color: Ivory / 9 other colors available
Material: 100% Cotton
8. IKEHIKO Japanese Traditional Igusa (Rush grass) Tatami Mattress, Twin XL. Made in Japan
IKEHIKO, the manufacturer of this tatami mat, is a top-class company that grows their own rush for their tatami. Tatami is odor-resistant as well as highly absorbent—approximately 2.5 times that of cotton! Laying a shiki or kake-buton across this tatami mat rather than a bed will allow you to experience a true traditional Japanese sleeping style. Fresh rush also gives off a distinctive aroma, which is a scent that is quite nostalgic to Japanese people. If you’re not a fan of the smell, just air it out in a drafty place away from direct sunlight and in time, it will fade.
Size: Twin XL (39” x 83” x 0.5″ (unfolded) – 39” x 27.5” x 1.5″ (folded into 3)) (99.06 cm x 210.82 cm x 1.27 cm (unfolded) – 99.06 cm x 27.5 cm x 3.81 cm (folded into 3))
Weight: 5 lbs (2.27 kg)
Material: Rush grass
9. [Tatami] Rush Rug Karon Yellow
This is one of IKEHIKO’s top-ranking products. It is made with only 1% of the best rush grown by the company, so it is quite gentle on the skin. The rush is dyed twice to ensure that the color does not fade easily, and is quite durable thanks to the skillful hands of the experienced craftspeople. The rims are made with kurume-ori, a type of fabric that is often used to make kimono, and the exquisite luster comes from polishing the tatami with horsehair for a glossy finish. This tatami rug is sure to bring your interior design to a whole new level.
Size: 74.80″ * 98.42″ (M: 190.0 cm * 250.0 cm, L: 190.0 cm * 300.0 cm)
Weight: 15.43 lbs (7 kg)
Color: Yellow / Black
Material: Rush grass
10. [Tatami] Rush Rug Gran Blue
Similar to the tatami rug above, this is another high-quality piece from IKEHIKO. It also only uses 1% of the best rush that the company grows, which craftspeople painstakingly weave together after the rush has been dyed into many different colors. It is one of the most exquisite tatami pieces available, and although it is rather expensive, it is extremely reasonably priced considering how much time and energy goes into making it, as well as how many there are available. You cannot go wrong with this magnificent piece of Japanese craftsmanship.
Size: 75.19″ * 98.42″ (191.0 cm * 250.0 cm)
Weight: 13.23 lbs (6 kg)
Color: Blue / Yellow
Material: Rush grass
If you want to give feedback on any of our articles, you have an idea that you’d really like to see come to life, or you just have a question on Japan, hit us up on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!
*These products may not be able to be shipped to certain countries. Please see the retailer’s website for more information.
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.