Guest Article - Laying out and folding a Japanese Futon

Futon, literally meaning a mattress or a blanket, is a Japanese bed popular all over the world for the comfort it provides. Japanese are famous for being meticulous; so, it should not come as a surprise that this invention of theirs is not as simple as it appears to be. When we think of a bed, we think of a piece of furniture that is used for sleeping and except for the design, we mostly are concerned about the sleep that our bed would provide. A Japanese Futon in the same regard, is a well thought invention the purpose of which is to provide a sound and peaceful sleep.


Components of a Futon:
Those of you who don’t know what a Futon is or how it looks, here’s an overview of a Japanese Futon or a traditional Futon mattress. Apparently, it is a low slung bed that might just also appear as a plain mattress lying on a floor. However, it is composed of different components. Traditionally, the Futon is supposed to be folded. According to the Japanese culture, the bed should never be left spread out during the day. So, if you are visiting Japan and you are to sleep on a Futon, you have to fold it before leaving the room. 

There are three Components of a Futon:

·     Shiki futon:  These are traditional Japanese mattresses. They are thin and usually range from 2-5 inches in thickness. A shiki futon is the reason why Japanese Futons provide an extremely comfortable sleep. Unlike foams and spring mattresses, shiki futons are organic i.e. they are made of 100% pure cotton. Many companies might add synthetic material to make its manufacture cheaper, but ideally authentic shiki futon must be made entirely out of cotton. In countries other than Japan, shiki futons are quite expensive and come wrapped in sheets with a variety of colors and materials.

·     Kakebuton: This is the comforter that is laid on top of the shikifuton. The material and thickness of kakbebuton may vary but typically it is made of hand pulled silk and is extremely thin and light weight. The silk Kakebuton is ideal for winters as it provides enough warmth without being heavy or bulky. No matter, which material a Kakebuton is made from, it is supposed to be light weight and thin.

·     Makura: It is a traditional Futon pillow that is completely different from the pillows we are accustomed to. It is typically made of buckwheat hull or beans. This means that is a hard pillow that might not appeal to many people. The idea behind this it to provide an appropriate elevation of the head and neck.

The laying and folding of Futon:
As said, the main difference in a futon and other beds is the difference of care routine. It is important to lay the futon out and fold it back. It is essential for all the components of Futon to be placed correctly otherwise it will not serve its purpose. To lay down a futon here’s what you need to do:

1.   Place the wooden frame (if you’re using one) to put the Shiki futon. Mostly, Japan is commonly in habit of using Tatami mats, a yoga like mat that is laid out before a futon. The height of the frame may vary, depending upon the use of futon as a bed or sofa bed.
2.   Next is the futon.
3.    A sheet is then placed on top of the shiki futon. This is called the futon cover which also ranges in colors and designs.
4.   The sheet must be like a pillow case i.e. the entire mattress must fit into it.
5.   Next place the kakebuton on top of the traditional Japanese futon
6.   At last, place the pillow and you are good to go!

Here’s how you will fold the Futon:
       1. First, fold the kakebuton. Fold into a half and then a quarter. But, remember to never touch the underside with the outer side; fold it in one direction.
             2. Now, fold the mattress, shiki futon, in the similar fashion as you’ll fold the comforter.
             3. Once you are done folding the mattress and the comforter, make a stack of it and place a pillow on top of it.
Many people have different opinions about Japanese futons: some find it most comforting while some find in uncomfortable. But, essentially when you get used to it and adjust with makura, a futon can be an ideal bed in for you