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A Futon is a thick mattress featuring a fabric exterior stuffed with cotton or synthetic batting that makes up a Japanese bed.  The Futon is usually about 5 centimeters (2.0 inches) thick.   


Futons are sold in Japan specialty stores that are called Futon-ya.  They can also be found in department stores.    Futons are sold in sets that may include the following: 


-          Futon mattress (shikbuton) 

-          Comforter (kakebuton) 

-          A Blanket (Mofu) that is a summer blanket resembling a large towel; 

-          A Pillow (makura) that will generally be filled with beans, buckwheat chaff or plastic beads. 


Futons are designed to be set on tatami flooring.  They are traditionally folded and stored away in a closet during the day to allow the tatami flooring to breathe while also providing flexibility in the use of the room. 

japanese futon


Futons must be aired in sunlight regularly especially if they are not folded and put away during the day.  In addition, many Japanese people will beat their Futons regularly using a special tool traditionally made from bamboo and resembling a western carpet beater. 


Western Futons are based on the original Japanese design, however, there are several major differences.  They are often placed on a configurable wood or metal frame so that they can be used as both a bed and a chair or couch.   The frame usually folds in the middle to allow the Futon to be used as a couch while it can later be flattened to be used as a bed.


western futon


Western Futons are usually filled with foam as well as batting, often in several layers, and they are usually much thicker and larger than Japanese Futons.  Western Futons tend to resemble a traditional mattress in size and normally feature a removable and replaceable cover giving them more versatility. 


The Western style Futons are attractive as they offer an inexpensive alternative to a bed or other furniture and they are often sold in sets that include the mattress and frame.