Japan has a long history of developing thoughtful, tidy design ideas. That’s why the traditional bedroom setup in Japan is perfect for anyone who lives in a tiny house or any other sort of close quarters.

Why You Should Use A Shikibuton

Before we get into that, think about a typical Western tiny house or studio apartment setup. A full-size Western bed takes up about 28 square feet of space. That’s a pretty big slice of 400 square feet or less, especially considering you shouldn’t use your bed to sit on when you’re not sleeping. (That can really affect the quality of your sleep.)

Japanese people have lived in cramped quarters for centuries, and they came up with the perfect solution to this problem a long time ago. You might have heard that some Japanese people sleep on the floor. That’s not exactly true. In fact, many Japanese people sleep on shikibuton mattresses, which lay directly on the floor.

Shikibuton Vs. Futon: What Is A Shikibuton?

A shikibuton is a kind of mattress invented in Japan that the user folds up and stores every morning. Shikibuton do not rest on a bed frame. Instead, Japanese people typically lay shikibuton on top of tatami (woven rice straw) mats.

Shikibuton are one of the two components of futon, a Japanese bed set. In the United States and other Western countries, the word “futon” has changed meanings. In the U.S., futon describes a bed with a thick mattress that can be converted into a couch.

In its native language, futon means the two components—the shikibuton and the kakebuton (duvet)—that comprise a bed that sits on floor tatami.

Types Of Shikibuton

Shikibuton come in all sorts of sizes, shapes, and material. Here’s what you should consider if you’re thinking about buying a shikibuton:

Size Do you want a twin, full, queen, or king futon?
Fill Down, foam, or cotton?
Thickness How much separation do you want from the floor? Does your house get cold at night?
Fabric Do you have allergy needs that dictate what kind of fabric your shikibuton should be?
Storage Where will you keep your shikibuton during the day?

How To Use A Shikibuton

At Night

When you’re ready for bed, you’ll have to set up your futon:

  1. Unroll the futon.
  2. Shake or beat the shikibuton to get out fibers, dust, and pests like spiders.
  3. Sweep the area where you intend to sleep.
  4. Lay the shikibuton on the floor where you intend to sleep.
  5. Make the bed with kakebuton and pillows.
  6. Get cozy!

In The Morning

You’ll need to stow your futon every morning:

  • Rise and shine!
  • When you’ve rubbed the sleep out of your eyes, take the kakebuton off your futon and store it.
  • Give your shikibuton another shake.
  • Check to see whether your shikibuton is damp.
  • When the shikibuton is dry, or if it was not damp in the first place, fold it up and put it in a closet.

How To Maintain A Shikibuton

Shikibuton need to be dried regularly. We perspire a lot when we’re sleeping! Condensation can also form on the floor under certain circumstances, especially if you sleep with a humidifier.

So, if you sleep on a shikibuton, you should dry it daily. If the shikibuton is notably damp, set up a fan to dry it or hang it on a clothesline or over a rail in direct sunlight.

japanese futon
Ian Norman / Flickr (Creative Commons)

A shikibuton that is not regularly dried with a fan or direct sunlight can get moldy, damp, and stinky. Mold is extremely dangerous to humans’ mental and pulmonary health.

Also, shikibuton need to be folded up and stored every day. Storage extends the life of the mattress and prevents dust and pests from gaining access to it. Plus, if you’re trying to get the most out of a small space, putting away your bed is the whole point!

Examples Of Shikibuton

A classic futon in a tatami room.

A traditional Japanese bedtime setup.

Up close on a check futon.

Pairs well with succulents!

Trying out futon.

A more modern futon.

Shikifuton sob tatames, combinação perfeita para um quarto oriental! #tatame#futon#sofacamafuton#tsuruyanofuton#decoracaooriental#bairrodaliberdade#liberdadeasia#tatami #shikifuton #shikibuton#decoracaoclean #liberdadesp #tsuruya #decoracaodeinteriores

A post shared by Tsuruya No Futon (@tsuruyanofuton) on

How to use your tatami bedroom during the day.

Shikibuton on the ground right before bedtime.

Futon are perfect for van life!

Shikibuton in a more Western setting.

Trying out futon.

This woman loves her shikibuton!

Did I mention I love my #shikibuton?

A post shared by Georgia (@georgialaurette) on

Buddhist temple futon.

Stayed overnight at a #BuddhistTemple in #Koyasan #Mountains ? #Shikibuton #Beds #Futon

A post shared by Lauren Hill (@laurenmariahill) on

Another classic Japanese bedroom.

Where To Buy Shikibuton

Futon stores tend to carry shikibuton. So do some bedding stores. You can also buy shikibuton online. Here are some Prime-eligible shikibuton that we found on Amazon:

Written by Peter Johnson

One Comment

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  1. Very nice and useful explanation about shikibutons! It is indeed important to let them dry out regularly, otherwise the ground beneath it will get moist! Keep up the good work!

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