What is a Japanese Bed?
A Japanese bed is not as simple as a mattress over a box spring. Rather, the following combination of elements synthesize into a pleasant, comfortable sleeping experience:
- Shiki futon
- Kakebuton comforter
- Soba gara makura buckwheat hull pillows
- Tri-fold mattress pad
- Tatami mat
- Platform bed
First and foremost, the shiki futon is the essential component of the Japanese bed because it critically influences the overall comfort level of the Japanese sleeping system. Not to be mistaken wth a Western-style futon, the shiki futon is usually made with 100% cotton (though the newer, contemporary models sometimes use more innovative, functional materials) and varies in thickness from 2 to 5 inches. A shiki futon can be pricey, especially here in the United States, because its manufacturing process is meticulous and the materials must be top-quality for the shiki futon to hold its shape and firmness for years to come.
Available in dozens of designs, shiki futons are usually wrapped in cotton or silk covers. The point is to protect against wear & tear and block dust and allergens.
Next, the kakebuton is what in America we would call a comforter. This stunning work of craftsmanship is filled with hand-pulled silk which makes it extremely lightweight while efficiently retaining body heat throughout the night. With a kakebuton, you are truly able to sleep in cloud nine since it does not exert any presence on the body.
No Japanese sleeping system would be complete without a soba gara makura -- the buckwheat hull pillow. Filled with organic buckwheat hull, this pillow provides a comfortable sleep by perfectly adjusting to the contour of your head and neck. The soba gara makura is the original Tempur-Pedic technology!
Although not required, many people -- especially Westerners -- prefer to sleep with a tri-fold mattress underneath the shiki futon. This is a thick foam mattress pad that is a perfect solution for adding an extra layer of comfort to the Japanese sleeping system. A tri-fold mattress can also double up as a separate convenient guest bed when you have company over.
Finally, many people use a tatami mat or a platform bed to support the entire Japanese bed. The choice between these two elements can either make a portable and foldable sleeping system that can be stored in the closet, or create a stunning structure in the bedroom radiating with authentic Japanese flavors.
Are you ready to experience the Japanese way of sleeping? You don't have to travel to Japan or pay excessive fees for an imported bed. Based on reader feedback and our own independent testing, we put together a list of the best shops in the United States where you can buy an authentic shikibuton.
View our recommended stores for a Japanese bed »