Alternative to tatami mat for a Japanese style futon?
April 23, 2021 12:01 PM   Subscribe

Hi all. I'm moving into a new place with vinyl flooring, and I'm looking into getting a Japanese-style futon to sleep on. Basically, a shikibuton. I've used them in the past on carpeting, and I liked them. It'll also be a small apartment, so I want to be able to fold up the futon during the day for more room. Is there something else that I can use to put under it that's not a tatami mat? Since I'm small and I live alone, I'm looking at twin-sized shikibuton.

I have moderate persistent asthma, and pretty severe allergies, particularly to grasses and molds. The absolute last thing I want to do is to spend lots of money on a piece of furniture, that then makes me sick. I don't know if I'm allergic to tatami mats or not, but I'd rather not take that risk. Since I have some time to look at furniture options before I move next month, I'd like to investigate now.

What could I put under the shikibuton instead of tatami? I've thought of the following:

Yoga mats
Camping mats
A rug
A mattress topper

Anything else out there? FWIW, I'm not allergic to latex, though I don't want to introduce another allergen into my system by laying on it every night.

I looked at this question, but it didn't offer any alternatives: I'm also not willing to 'seal in' a tatami mat with a clear coating, as that will flare up my allergies as well.

I'm also open to the possibility that shikibuton life just isn't for me, but I really want to give it a go. Thank you!
posted by spinifex23 to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I forgot to add to the question - I live in Seattle, where it gets cool and moist in winter. I'm also not opposed to Amazon links, though non-amazon sources would also be welcome. Now I'll stop thread sitting!
posted by spinifex23 at 12:04 PM on April 23, 2021

I would consider also getting a cover along with the mattress topper (or something similar) that will keep the topper from picking up dust and dirt from the room that might trigger your allergies separate from the material that topper is made from.
posted by metahawk at 12:08 PM on April 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

Memory foam gel based mat? Too thick?

One of the camping sleeping mats, like those from Klymat
posted by kschang at 12:17 PM on April 23, 2021

Best answer: I would use a rug for extra padding and breathability. Preferably wool if it's not an allergen for you, or you could try a large carpet sample. I'd avoid polypropylene rugs from IKEA: they're neither padded enough nor breathable enough to do much good.

Japanese futons can trap moisture, and the tradition is to dry them out on a laundry pole in the sun, but that doesn't work well if you're not home all day--something to think about post-pandemic. I hung mine up on a clothes rack indoors, since I couldn't be home every day to watch for rain.
posted by homodachi at 12:21 PM on April 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Exercise mats that you interlock. Easy to buy at Target, Harbor Freight, etc.
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 12:22 PM on April 23, 2021

Best answer: I’d worry about warm humid air condensing on the cold flooring and eventually making the futon moldy. So an under layer should be really good thermal insulation, or allow some airflow, or both. (Tatami look like they should have a lot of the first and some of the second. Yesno?)
posted by clew at 12:47 PM on April 23, 2021 [4 favorites]

Are you looking for something to provide cushioning, airflow, or both? For circulation, I would try to find something like this wooden roll-up "frame".
posted by wreckingball at 1:10 PM on April 23, 2021

What about a coconut coir mattress pad? Coconut fiber, air circulation, inexpensive. Not sure if it can be rolled up when not in use nor whether it would trigger your allergies.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 1:16 PM on April 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The two times I lived in Japan and staying at a ryokan (about 2 years total), I slept on a traditional futon. Each time, there was another layer underneath: a trifold mat. This made it much, much more comfortable (one of the most comfortable ways I've ever slept, even resting on a metal grate frame at one point!). I would think there are some options out there for this kind of option that could offset the hardness of the floor and help with the moisture layer issue (though you'd still sometimes want to move it all to air).

Here's an example of the general trifold mat concept I'm talking about, though I have no experience with this particular product.
posted by past unusual at 1:20 PM on April 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

FLOR carpet tiles link together (so you can make an 'area rug' beneath the futon) and can be rinsed off in the sink. FAQ.
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:53 PM on April 23, 2021

I definitely experienced some mildewing with my futon sleeping on a laminate/vinyl plank floor. I also used a rug over the puzzle mats, but you still need to be careful to air them out.

If I was doing it again, I'd get a trifold mat mentioned above, and also some sort of ventilated raised surface to store the futon on during the day. Maybe drape it over a clothes rack, and make sure to flip it frequently.
posted by that girl at 10:46 PM on April 23, 2021

Best answer: We have a futon that we roll up during the day, and we put it on a pair of thick yoga mats - about 1cm deep. Works perfectly well and has done for over ten years. (We've replaced the futon in that time, but not the yoga mats.)
posted by Grangousier at 3:06 AM on April 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all! I think that for me, the yoga mat / fitness mat solutions are going to be the best. Glad to know that I can live out my futon sleeping days safely, without mold and without allergies.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:04 PM on April 24, 2021

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