What Is the Difference in a Futon & a Japanese Futon Mattress?

Written by brock cooper
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What Is the Difference in a Futon & a Japanese Futon Mattress?
There are several differences between a Japanese futon mattress and a futon. (flashfilm/Lifesize/Getty Images)

When most people think of a futon, it conjures up images of dorm rooms and cheap college apartments. In reality, the futon was a Japanese creation used as a way to maximise space. Often, Japanese living, sleeping and eating areas were all one room, so the futon became a place to sit, sleep and eat. There are many differences between a futon and a Japanese futon mattress.

American Versus Japanese Futon

A traditional American futon is a mattress and frame that can be converted both into a sofa-like chair and flattened into a bed. This is a far cry from the Japanese futon mattress, which is often sold as just a mattress. Japanese futon mattresses are often more durable than their American counterparts and more expensive.


Most American mattresses are filled with either foam, polyester or cotton and may include springs, but Japanese futon mattresses are filled with cotton, silk, buckwheat and other natural items. Japanese futon mattresses are thicker than a standard futon, which is often only 6 to 10 inches, but not as thick as a pillow top mattress.


American futons were not built to last. They are often made in a factory and only last a few years before becoming worn and needing replaced. Unlike a standard mattress, futons are used for more than just sleeping and thus wear faster. The average life of a Japanese futon mattress is between 7 to 22 years and averages about 15, according to jlifeinternational.com.

Types of Japanese Futon Mattresses

The Shiki futon was the standard futon mattress owned my most Japanese middle class. The futon is durable and often filled with cotton. Kake Futon was once only allowed for Japanese royalty and is filled with hand-pulled mulberry silk. The silk is known to equalise the temperature and dissipate moisture better than cotton and polyester fillings.

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