Jul 20, 2018
My first Japanese futon, neatly folded and very pink
There are many things to worry about when it comes to moving to Japan. Many of my personal concerns were allayed by moving into a company-owned and furnished apartment, but I was more than a little worried about one thing: I would most likely end up with a futon, not a bed. How could I sleep on the floor for a whole year? I was supposed to stay that long, after all. I don’t do well when I sleep badly for one night!How could a futon possibly be an adequate replacement for my bed?
When I arrived at my new apartment in Japan, sure enough, a futon was waiting for me - the ludicrously bright pink futon pictured above, no less. It was also minus an under-mattress, an extra layer between me and the floor, because my new roommates didn’t have a spare one and had forgotten to ask the company to order a new one for me. A bed it most certainly was not.
Yet on that particular day, I didn’t care as much as I might have. I was so tired after my long-haul flight in economy to get to Japan that just lying down seemed like a huge gift. The futon would suffice.
As it turned out, it did more than that. Even without the under mattress (which arrived the next day), it was surprisingly comfortable. Sleeping turned out to be no problem at all and even the bright pink became something of a running joke between my roommates and myself. I also discovered that I liked being able to just fold away my bedding for the day and create a large, open space in my room. Sure, I might just end up putting more stuff in that space, but creating a space for my futon come nighttime would ensure that I put all that stuff away too! Cleaning became much easier, and not having a bed to shove things under has also meant a slight reduction in clutter on my part!
As the years went on and I ended up staying in Japan, my needs changed and I discovered ever more benefits to futons. They were cost effective, for one, a cheap set costing less than 10,000 yen even when the under mattress, pillows, covers and blankets were thrown in. They were also more temporary than beds, perfect for when you were living in a place for a relatively short or unclear amount of time, and considerably easier to dispose of when/if you were done with them.
My futon is also much more mobile than a large piece of furniture like a bed is, a blessing at the more extreme ends of the Japanese seasons when my residence has limited heating and cooling facilities. My “bedroom” and its lack of climate control might be all well and good when the weather is fine, but when it snows in the dead of winter or we experience a heatwave in the middle of summer? I can just move my futon into the room with the air conditioner and sleep there for the night in comfort.
Finally, having children now has made me especially appreciative of futons. As @candiajia pointed out, I don’t have to worry about my children rolling out of bed when they’re already on the floor to start with, and it has made sleeping with them as babies relatively easy - I just put their baby-sized futon next to mine and away we go.
While I have always enjoyed sleeping in beds when I go traveling and being able to flop straight onto one whatever the time of day, I’ve come to really appreciate using futons at home. Since I expect to be staying in Japan for now, I imagine my family and I will be continuing to use futons into the foreseeable future!
I'm Australian and married to a Japanese (post)man. We live in Chiba with our two children, where I work as an English teacher. I try to post something here once a week, and I also have a personal blog over at http://lyssays.wordpress.com/
... and I still laud the futon system. Last winter when it got so cold in our daughter’s bedroom it was so easy to move the futon from her ‘bed’ ( the super low bed frame that they gave here) and place it in our room where it was warmer. We also find that now in the summer it’s easier too to move her closer to the air conditioned area. I MAY purchase a memory foam later from https://jp.koala.com/products/koala-mattress.