The word ‘futon’ roughly translates to bed in Japanese. However, originally the word futon was used to refer a round cushion filled with cattail leaves. Futons, unlike spring mattress, can be easily folded onto a specially designed wooden or metal frame. Futon mattresses are malleable, meaning that it can bend with the adjustment of futon frame. Futons were invented as a solution for smaller families housed in single-family homes. They were four inches thick. Futons were filled with cotton fiber. Interestingly, they were also made of staple cotton. This imparted strength to futons and thus they couldn’t get lumpy or be pulled apart easily.
These futons were laid directly on tatami floors. It is thin and loosely filled which makes it light and easy to fold. Futons are popular in Japanese households with few rooms. Whenever the need be, the futon is unfolded and used. Otherwise it can be folded and placed in a closet. Small size of futons allows one to fold it and keep it inside a closet. Keeping the futon in the closet opens up some extra space for day to day activities or household chores, which may not have been possible in the presence of western type beds. The futon gained popularity in America in and around 1970s. William Brouwer, a furniture designer thought that adaptable beds could benefit people.
Western style futons, which typically resemble low, wooden sofa beds, differ substantially from their Japanese counterparts. These western futons are almost always placed on a configurable wood or metal frame for dual use; as a bed and as a chair. Generally, the frame folds in the middle, allowing the futon to be used as a couch, and flattens for use as a bed. It is much thicker and larger than Japanese futons and maybe filled with foam along with batting, often in several layers. They are used to accommodate guests and visiting family.A traditional Japanese futon comprises of the following: a mattress, the shikibuton, a comforter, or kakebuton, and the pillow, the makura. Sleeping on the floor on futons may not sound comfortable but the reality is very different.
Sleeping on a futon is comfortable. There are other benefits like sleeping on a futon keeps the spine aligned thereby sparing one the agony of back ache after waking up. It is light and portable so it can be carried around. Since it is light it can be handled easily and thus cleaning or sterilizing a futon is never a problem. Most people have reported excellent sleep on futons. Futons must be aired regularly to prevent them from getting moldy.
Many people beat their futons with a special stick to remove dust. This special stick is called futon tataki. Rainy season calls for the use of futon dryers. Sometimes futons are accompanied by a blanket, called mofu. Futons were accepted all over the world resulting in many variants of futon. The first variant is not actually a variant but the traditional futon. Most traditional futons are three piece purchases.
The next variant is Unfinished Poplar and Pine futon. Unfinished Poplar and Pine futon frames have risen in popularity due to the high quality materials and relatively low cost associated with their construction. Another variant is the metal futon. As the name suggests, the futon frame in this case was built from metal imported from China or Indonesia.
They have relatively low life. Yet another futon variant is Hardwood futon. These are the most commonly used futons. They are a bit fragile but are available in a wide array of styles. Some other worthy of mention futon types are click clack futons, convert-a-couch futon, and mali flex futon. Futons come in four sizes. Queen Size Futon Mattresses which are 60 inch by 80 inch in dimension. Full Size Futon Mattresses which are 54 inch by 75 inch in dimension. Twin Size Futon Mattresses which are 39 inch by 75 inch in dimension. Finally we have Chair Size Futon Mattress which are 54 inch by 28 inch in dimension. Futon covers are an essential. Futon covers come in a variety of styles, colors, and fabrics.
In general futon covers can be classified into three categories: Washable, Custom Washable, and Custom Futon Covers. In Japan, the most famous futon manufacturing company is Nishikawa. They make everything for the futons. When temperatures drop sleeping on a futon on the floor can be difficult. You could catch a cold or worse get affected by some other life threatening disease.
Other than that there aren’t any disadvantages of sleeping on a futon. Tourists in Japan often get a cultural shock when they are given a futon on the floor to sleep on. However, that is one of their shows of respect. People believe that a person who folds his futon after sleep is good mannered. Choosing to acquire a futon may be a lifestyle choice or an experiment but having read so much about futons don’t you feel like sleeping on one right now?