Lacking space in your apartment? Invest in futon!

According to European standards 18m2 gives a little more than half of a studio, while in Japan it is already an apartment. While being in Japan, I had the opportunity to sleep in such a place. Amazingly, there were all the basic facilities: bathroom with separate toilet, bedroom, hallway, kitchen and even a balcony. It is true that Japanese living in the suburbs have flats of 60 to 80 meters, but having a flat in the city center is associated with prestige and significantly reduces the time required to get to work.

The standard apartment in the city center is about 16 to 20m2, and its layout resembles that of our studios. In this situation, it is obvious that one should give up on the biggest wasters of space which are also of low practical value. For this reason, and because of the unique attachment of the Japanese to their tradition, for sleeping they usually don’t use beds but futons.

What is a futon?

Futon is a bedding, which mainly consists of a mattress (about 5cm thick), called shikifuton, made mainly of cotton, which serves as a perfect temperature controller. Best shikifutons are filled with long cotton fibers, which are the most valuable part of the cotton because yarn is produced of it. The fibers are strong and elastic, plus do not clump into balls. Today shikifutons are enriched with a variety of other materials (feathers, polyester, wool, artificial foams, latex, coconut fiber), but cotton is still the most popular.

Additional futon components are quilt (kakefuton) or blanket (moku) and pillow (makura). Quilt is filled with feathers, while the pillow is usually filled with peas and rye. Japanese pillows have usually very imaginative shapes. However, due to the fact that this is a broad topic, I will write about it some other time. Or, I will tease you a bit: Hizamakura.

History of futon

In the thirteenth century the lower social classes in Japan slept on grass beddings, naked, under their clothes, while the upper classes slept on tatami mats, clothed. The first mattresses were introduced to the public in the seventeenth century, and were made by packing the clothes with wool and cotton, which gave birth to the futon’s prototype.

In the eighteenth century, thanks to the availability of cotton, the production of futon was possible on a scale larger than ever before. At that time, ordinary people could not afford such a luxury, because futons, although more available, were still very expensive. It was a product so luxurious that men bought women futons to seduce them. Also futons were given to prostitutes – the best prostitutes had very many of them.

It was not until the nineteenth century, that the futon industry developed significantly and began to import cotton on a large scale. This led to low prices of futons, and so every citizen could buy one.

Daily use of futon

The Japanese hide the futon in the closet each morning, and take it out each night. Due to its thickness and elasticity futon can be curled in a space-saving roll, which can easily get back to its original shape. Futon is placed on a floor covered in the tatami mat, which contributes to its softness.

It is important to regularly air futon. Especially in the summer one should do it more often, because taking it out of the closet only at night does not help keeping the futon in good shape. At least once a year shikifuton is taken to a special laundry service, where the interior is separated from the covers and washed separately.

In the twenty-first century, a futon can adjust to the shape of the body, thus it is considered to be very good for health. This variant is called Seiatsu Futon. It is believed that the Seiatsu Futon improves blood circulation, cools in summer and warms in winter. The stores also have in their offers futons “resistant” to bedbugs’ attacks.

The oldest company manufacturing futons is Nishikawa Company, which has over 440 years!


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