Oyasumi nasai (sleep well!, おやすみなさい!, お休みなさい!)
May 19, 2016 12:48 PM   Subscribe

The history of the wafuton goes back to ancient times more than three centuries before the Common Era. Considered to be good for the health, yet convenient to roll, store, and air, the Japanese futon is rather a different beast from that more familiar convertible futon common in the West. William Brouwer is credited with the original concept and industrial design of the wooden structure, while in Japan, it is master craftsmen like Hisayoshi Nohara, Grand Champion of Futon Making, who are revered for their work. You can try one out in a ryokan.
posted by infini (36 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 


My hero you are, infini.
posted by bologna on wry at 12:54 PM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Futons are one of those things I associate with the '90s, along with Magic Eye posters and halogen lamps.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:55 PM on May 19, 2016


Next up: a post about bedbugs
posted by Existential Dread at 12:55 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


someone do hammocks!
posted by daisystomper at 12:58 PM on May 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's not that I hate ALL futons, it's that I hate the specific one that my cousin owned the summer of 2001. And more specifically, it's the metal bar in the middle that wouldn't allow for any comfort or sleep whatsoever no matter how much bedding or pillow was added.
posted by Fizz at 12:59 PM on May 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


The second link makes an interesting distinction between what Americans think of as a futon and what a real Japanese futon is.

In the U.S., when one thinks of futon, the image is the futon sofa, a thick mattress that is on a wooden frame that can be converted into a bed. However, for a Japanese person, a futon must be laid directly on the floor.

And the Japanese actually fold up their futon and place it back in the closet each day.
posted by bologna on wry at 1:00 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I spent one night on a Japanese futon on tatami mats in a ryokan, and many many nights since fantasizing about how to replicate that perfection in my own home...(complete with the lovely Japanese cotton PJs they had). It may not sound comfortable (a futon on a floor?!?!) but I swear, it was wonderful.
posted by sallybrown at 1:01 PM on May 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


somebody mentioned a recipe for soup with tofu croutons the other day and I thought, well, obviously THAT is what should be called a "futon"
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:01 PM on May 19, 2016 [11 favorites]


It took 8 minutes from the moment they opened the posting window to the proofread link filled wondrous thing you behold, dudette.
posted by infini at 1:02 PM on May 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


(One should always pad their budgets, and impress everyone when they come under budget, or go over your original estimate and still come out looking good)

Happy nappy day!
posted by filthy light thief at 1:12 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm gonna snuggle in here where it's safe. Thanks, infini.
posted by maudlin at 1:14 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'll see your wafuton and raise you a waifuton
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 1:15 PM on May 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


In my 20's, I switched from the aforementioned slooshy-sloosh waterbed directly to a firm futon on a hardwood floor.

I was accused of being dramatic.
posted by rokusan at 1:19 PM on May 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Tbh, I get the weird looks when people note my IKEA double on the floor but there you go. The futon mattresses in Finland were ridiculous overpriced for my startup budget. This search has tempted me to keep an eye out for bargains in this sector. Even with a mattress pad I'm unhappy on this IKEA.
posted by infini at 1:23 PM on May 19, 2016


It's not that I hate ALL futons,

I do. After putting up with various futons throughout my 20's, I learned to loathe and detest the things. My back still hasn't forgiven me. If I was dictator of the world, one of my first acts would be to order the burning of all futons.
posted by fimbulvetr at 1:24 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


My SO is in Japan for a year and so she got a futon for her apartment. It's a twin and a half and was incredibly uncomfortable for me to sleep on. In part it was the space issue, but part of it was the lack of padding. I sleep on a rather soft bed and sleeping on my side was just not all that comfortable. (I snore if I sleep on my back.) However, after going to a couple of hotels while traveling, it was heaven to come back to.

The beds in most of the hotels have the magical property of actually being harder than the floor. If a futon is minimal padding, the beds might as well be made of rock. So that's my theory for futons. Not great, but better than the abomination that is typically thought of as a mattress in Japan. (There are some decent mattresses, although one place required an upgrade to get a mattress that had any give to it.)
posted by Hactar at 1:24 PM on May 19, 2016


I'll see your wafuton and raise you a waifuton

I'll see your waifuton and raise you a made-by-my-mother "semal ki rui" equivalent. Its gone around the world with me and I carry it onboard for long flights.
posted by infini at 1:32 PM on May 19, 2016


I'll see your wafuton and raise you a waifuton

That's brilliant.

I must admit to considering a futon-like setup for our next bedding solution. It's likely to be a much-smaller footprint house than most Americans are used to. Not to mention that I've always had allergy problems and the wife, and this may be a just-while-pregnant thing we've been told by M.Ds, has developed some issues as well. I would hope a more futon-like solution might help with both of those... and then the wife looks at me like I'm crazy and I settle down to reality once again.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:49 PM on May 19, 2016


One drawback of the (real) futons on tatami set up: makes it a little too easy for one of the other kids in the room on the adjacent futon to put you in a headlock while you both sleep.
posted by Soliloquy at 1:56 PM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Anyone have any suggestions for Western futon frame DIY plans? I've been sleeping on one for the last 5 months (Crashing with relatives since we moved cities) and I love the thing.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:41 PM on May 19, 2016


Except for the one at the posh ryokan in Miyajima, sleeping on a futon on the floor is not my thing. However, I did put a futon on top of a regular bed from Muji and it was lovely - I don't care if that makes me some kind of pea-averse princess.
posted by betweenthebars at 2:46 PM on May 19, 2016


the Japanese futon is rather a different beast from that more familiar convertible futon common in the West

Yeah, my Japanese wife was very confused by what Americans call a futon.

I'm curious what futon vs bed usage is in Japan these days (quick googling in English didn't find anything, probably need to search in Japanese). All the Japanese I know well enough to know their sleeping arrangements use a bed and not a futon.

If you've got a very tiny apartment I can see the advantage (since you can roll it up and use the space during the day, if you're not too lazy). It can be nice in hotels for the same reason (even better because they take care of putting it away / setting it up for you).

The biggest problems I've had with them are (1) they are often too short for me, which is true of many beds in Japan too (and doorways, and other things... I bang my head a lot), and (2) getting up and down from the floor is a little annoying (guess I'm getting old, as I used to sleep on the floor in college no problem).

The beds in most of the hotels have the magical property of actually being harder than the floor.

I have not experienced this, beds in Japan are maybe a bit like European ones (both seem a little less comfortable than American ones, but not dramatically so). My biggest problem is my feet often hang over the edge which is uncomfortable.
posted by thefoxgod at 3:25 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I slept on a proper futon for about a year and didn't enjoy it all that much. When I moved to my next place I got a proper bed (well daybed actually, but still better than a futon). One of the main upsides for a futon is that it means you have a tatami floor, and I love tatami floors. The other main upside is that you can lay down a bunch of futon side by side and just sprawl.

I'm kind of surprised to learn what dutch wives actually are. My understanding of the term was that it meant blow-up doll. Has the term evolved or was my mind in the gutter when it was explained to me?
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:33 PM on May 19, 2016


In my 20's, I switched from the aforementioned slooshy-sloosh waterbed directly to a firm futon on a hardwood floor.

I was accused of being dramatic.


It might have been the cape and the trumpets when you made the announcement.
posted by bongo_x at 4:43 PM on May 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


And more specifically, it's the metal bar in the middle that wouldn't allow for any comfort or sleep whatsoever no matter how much bedding or pillow was added.

It is my hope that the inventor spend the rest of their days nights on one.

Inevitable they're offered as a guest bed and you have to try to be gracious the next morning.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:02 PM on May 19, 2016


I think the articles somewhat overstate the degree to which futons are folded up and put in closets. Yes, that's what's supposed to happen, but I suspect a random survey of futon owners who live alone would find that the futon is on the floor pretty much 24/7.
posted by Bugbread at 7:26 PM on May 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


For a while when I was single I had a proper Japanese futon that I had to air out, etc. Sadly I didn't have a good closet to put it away in which diminishes its utility. I do find them comfortable - even now our bed is an IKEA slat frame (one with drawers) and one of their 3 inch thick foam mattresses. I find squishy beds incredibly uncomfortable. This makes traveling challenging since so many hotel beds are pillow top style and my hips sink into the bed deeper than most futons are thick.
posted by R343L at 7:51 PM on May 19, 2016


Yes, that's what's supposed to happen

Yeah, if you stay at a ryokan you get the nice experience where its folded up for you every morning and laid out every night while you are at dinner and so on. I suspect this influences the Western view of how it actually works. (That, and movies/stories/etc of upper-class Japanese in the past who presumably had servants to do this sort of thing)

My wife lived in a tiny 6-mat apartment and even then she didn't roll up her futon, since you can sit on that as well as you can the floor anyway, and there's no real need...

Even when my inlaws drag out the futons for guests, they stay on the floor the whole time the guests are there and are only put away afterwards.
posted by thefoxgod at 9:52 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


someone do hammocks!

Done and done.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:06 AM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


we had tatami when I was a kid while family stationed in japan in early 60's. slept on futon. I carried a futon around with me for over ten years in and out of college. Loved it.
posted by judson at 10:20 AM on May 20, 2016


So, can anyone recommend a good place to buy proper Japanese futons in the US?
posted by Lyn Never at 12:59 PM on May 20, 2016


What sallybrown said. Ryokan futon (wool for the most part, I think) on a tatami floor are the bee's knees. I sleep very well on those and never wake up with a sore back. Having someone to fold it for you is icing on the cake. (I tend to fold it in thirds when I get up, with the kakibuton likewise folded on top, with my pillow atop that as well, out of courtesy, although oheso.SO just leaves it for the hotel staff.)

I slept on a "futon" in the US for a couple of years before moving to Japan. It was made of cotton and I had it on the floor, not a frame. Within a year it was densely packed down and hard as a rock. I doubt I could have rolled it up as it was when it was new.

During my previous marriage I lived in a neighborhood that offered bedding made of camelhair. I tried to interest the ex in that, but she wouldn't be budged. I remain curious.
posted by oheso at 11:40 PM on May 20, 2016


And the Japanese actually fold up their futon and place it back in the closet each day.

YMMV. See aforementioned ex.
posted by oheso at 11:43 PM on May 20, 2016


I know of, and have window shopped, here - its in Singapore, but I would ask if they ship.
posted by infini at 3:55 AM on May 21, 2016



So, can anyone recommend a good place to buy proper Japanese futons in the US?


I bought this one 6 weeks ago after moving cross-country and swearing against getting another uncomfortable and squeaky (!) memory foam mattress from a chain as I had a year before. I got an allergen and dust mite protective cover for the whole mattress to keep it clean, and I've put a queen size fitted sheet over that. I slept on a futon in Japan for 4 months a couple years ago, and this time I wanted that kind of 'basically sleeping on the floor' experience of back support this time. So far I'm very happy with this one, and I actually do fold it up before I go to work each day; it takes 5 seconds and keeps the mattress from getting lumpy.

You can also find a made-in-Japan futon on Amazon for about $100 more, and I know of another US-based outlet that sells normal twin sized futons for a bit more as well.
posted by Theiform at 8:02 PM on May 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


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