Should I sleep on a (Japanese) futon?
September 4, 2019 7:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm in a new city for what I expect to be a 2-3 year stint. I am less than thrilled about either (1) spending beaucoup bucks on new box springs + matress, or (2) throwing away said mattress when I leave town: the whole process seems frustratingly wasteful. This has me thinking about a futon + duvet (shikibuton + kakebuton) set à la . Is this a good idea? Where can I purchase such a beast (in the US)? Handful of snowflakes inside.


1. I'm not a short person: anything shorter than a long twin/queen/king (80 in.) and I definitely feel it. Do they make long futons?

2. What's the routine like for keeping these clean? I had a reasonable set of habits for a bed, I think, but adapting to something besides weekly linen-washing may be a challenge.

3. What climate considerations should I have in mind? (What level of humidity/heat are natural for this combination?)
posted by golwengaud to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I slept on the floor on an authentic Japanese futon for close to two years, and it was AMAZING. I can't sleep on soft mattresses (pillowtop almost killed my back), so the firmness was wonderful. I don't remember the size of it (I'm 5'7-ish so I didn't noticed that it was particularly short) , but I used regular sheets and changed them like I would a normal bed.
posted by littlesq at 8:03 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

You could also consider the idea of Craigslist. People (at least where I live) frequently give away nearly-new, flawless Tuft & Needle mattresses because they've bought them online and decided they don't quite work. When you move, you could give it away again. It's also easy (again, at least where I live) to quickly find a free bed frame on Craigslist.
posted by pinochiette at 8:26 PM on September 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

It's been a while but I never liked the way futons compact and lump up.

Is your new city big enough to have some non chain store mattress places? I got a Queen mattress at a share house outlet place for $500. It's not super fancy but I’m sleeping better than I have on a lot of expensive, heavy foam mattresses.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:30 PM on September 4, 2019

I needed an occasional bed and decided to look at Japanese futons. I ended up getting this one and I find it very comfortable. I put a twin fitted sheet on it and use it with a duvet. But it is firm and will depend on what’s under it. It’s cheap enough that you could give it a try and then decide. I think that in order to have it not totally flatten, you must develop a practice of rolling it up every morning. And, likely, the higher quality you can get the better it will last and wear.
posted by amanda at 8:32 PM on September 4, 2019

I thought about doing this the last time I moved, and actually wound up sleeping on a shikibuton at an AirBnB while I was apartment-hunting. I'm 5'10" and tend to stretch out quite a lot and I found it very comfortably long for me. Not noticeably different than sleeping on a full bed, anyway.

One thing to note -- I'm mostly a side-sleeper, and they're a bit hard for that; you'll probably do best if you're okay sleeping on your back. (Or your stomach, I guess?) That said, it wasn't awful for a few nights or anything.
posted by kalimac at 8:37 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Futons give me wonderful sleep. I like the firmness (I'm a side sleeper).

Rolling the futon regularly is helpful is stopping the filling from packing and becoming hard. Also, rolling's really essential if your futon is on the floor, otherwise the moisture from your bod accumulates underneath and eventually rots the floor or the futon or both; if the futon's on a frame that's not an issue at all as air circulates underneath.
posted by anadem at 8:46 PM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

Unless you're using your futon in a room with tatami flooring, it's common to place a thin, folding foam mattress underneath so it's not so hard.

Traditionally you would set your futon out in the sun at least once a week to dry out accumulated moisture and kill some of the mites that live inside. (You can never kill them all, just keep their numbers down.) Then beat it with a stick, or vacuum it, to take care of dust.

You don't need a kakebuton - a regular down comforter from Ikea (with a removable cover) will be much more effective for keeping you warm.
posted by Umami Dearest at 9:17 PM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

I slept on a futon for close to a decade. I'm 6ft tall and never found it to be too short. I also simply used standard western-style sheets and coverings and never had a problem. The one thing I did do was get 3 tatami mats with a binding frame. I think that made a big difference to humidity and longevity issues and gave the whole setup a little extra give.

I would probably still be sleeping on a similar setup except for my chronic health issues.
posted by michswiss at 1:12 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

The two comments above me are spot on.
I was pretty lazy about putting it away and airing it out, but it was also on tatami. I lived alone, and the tiny balcony six floors up got little direct light and was infested with pigeons so... I might have flipped it a few times. This was for 1+ year in Nagoya, big apartment building, no aircon (or heat, really). Super comfy. I haaate too short beds and had no issue (I'm 5'9"). Note that real Japanese futons are different than what you get from Ikea or other run of the mill suburban bed or "futon" place. Get the real thing.

On the other hand...
We left our regular spring mattress on the hardwood for floor for awhile, on a woven rug. Maybe six months or so, through fall/winter in Sydney. When I went to flip it in the spring there was a 1 diameter patch of mold straight through three mattress, rug, and floor.

I also vote for tatami mats in a frame.
posted by jrobin276 at 2:31 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've used one for the last 4 years and love it. I have a second that my son used. We slept on a hardwood floor - in retrospect, a little padding under the futon would have been good. Now I have one atop the other on a low ikea frame and it's even better..

JLife is where I got mine from
posted by kokaku at 3:27 AM on September 5, 2019

The last thirty years of my sleeping has been done on a foam and wool core futon on a slat base I built myself. We've been using the one we currently have for the last twenty years. If it's heading toward hardening up, just rolling it up during the day for a few days fixes that completely.
posted by flabdablet at 3:44 AM on September 5, 2019

If this is not something you want to experiment with (I hated sleeping on a futon), you can get a slatted bed base and a modestly priced mattress from IKEA and then give them away when you move.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:40 AM on September 5, 2019

I sleep on a futon on the floor. I need a firm mattress and had tried several mattresses that didn’t satisfy me so decided to get a real Japanese futon. I don’t have a tatami mat underneath but a Balinese bamboo carpet which serves the same purpose as tatami. I love it and my back loves it too.

I bought a cover for the futon which I wash frequently. I don’t roll the futon up every day but every week or so. When it’s warm out, I bring it outside and let it air for a few hours. I flip it over every few months. I’ve had it for two years and it feels just the same as when I first bought it.

My friend who is 6’2” slept comfortably on this futon for several nights.

Here’s the futon:

And here’s the cover: The cover isn’t available anymore but there are other similar covers.
posted by la ninya at 12:25 PM on September 5, 2019

Consider Casper as a reasonably-priced alternative, available online.
posted by yclipse at 3:32 PM on September 5, 2019

If you like futons, get a futon. I am a futon sleeper myself and have been for more than ten years, and do not anticipate going back to a squishy bed for any reason short of some kind of (additional) health issue. I have a frame for mine but have never rolled it or anything, and I have a heated mattress pad on it. Futons are the best, unless you don't like them.
posted by bile and syntax at 4:13 PM on September 5, 2019

Another thumbs up for futons as long as you like a firm mattress: if you roll it up in the morning and stick it in the corner, you get the whole room back, which is excellent. You do need something underneath: we use a couple of 10mm thick foam yoga mats, and they work perfectly.
posted by Grangousier at 12:36 PM on September 6, 2019

(Oh, and we put it in duvet covers to keep it clean.)
posted by Grangousier at 12:37 PM on September 6, 2019

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