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What to look for - buying a futon/tatami 2008/10/2 17:21

We're planning to dump our bulky western bed with spring mattress and redo the bedroom in japanese style - yes, we are aware that it is a very different concept and are prepared to do the extra work it takes to look after the futon/tatamis properly and also expecting that sleeping like this will take some getting used to :).

Living in Italy and not having seen the ''real thing'' in Japan (YET :)), we're a little unsure of what we should be looking for when it comes to futon/tatami quality. There are lots of different types of futons available, including ones with latex/coconut fibre inserts, but we are after a more traditional japanese feeling. I expect this would be a cotton futon (layers not flocks) - some options within our budget include 10 or 20 cms thick futons. I'd be more inclined towards the 10 cm thick one since it would be easier to store when needed and if I have understood correctly original japanese futons are rarely very thick (not too worried about the comfort level either). The 10 cm thick futon is available either as standard or green tea model, the latter having green tea leaves inserted between the layers of cotton (claiming to have energizing qualities ;)) - since they both end up costing the same I'd be curious to try the green tea one, does anyone know if this is something you'd find in Japan?

As for the tatamis, our current favourite is a 5,5 cm thick tatami mat (igusa/rice straw) with an embroidered border, weighing around 30 kg according to the dealer. What should we be looking for apart from thickness/materials and do the above mentioned tatamis seem to be of a decent quality?

So sorry for the long and boring post :) thanks for reading!

by Jo  

futon 2008/10/3 15:08
I can't comment about Tatamis but have experience with futons, both in Canada where I live and in Japan where I have been quite a few times. I have slept on futons for nearly 30 years now and have only good things to say about them. I am from Europe by the way..our Canadian futons are 20 cm thick and this is too thick to move them around easily. Ours rest on a low platform with slats on the top as futons needs air to circulate under to draw the body sweat (at night)away. In Japan I have slept on thin futons placed on Tatamis (they absorb moisture from the futon then release it in the air slowly) Note that in Japan lots of furniture companies make platforms about 30-35 cm high, the length of 2 tatamis, the width of 1, to make a single bed. You place several platforms together to make an area for 2-4 people to sleep and lounge. Under the tatamis are drawers for storage. In Japan I have also slept on futons placed right on a wood floor--I slept like a log--I didn't find getting up hard as I am very flexible even at 50 year old plus. Thin futons for one person are best as they should be shaken and dried out regularly (daily in Japan) and folded during the day. Having green tea leaves inside? the leaves are likely to dry out anyway. Better to make your own small green tea leaves bags and place then between the futon and the bottom sheet. have a look at http://www.japanesespaces.com/album/
and http://www.tatamiroom.co.uk/
is especially informative (check all the pages like layout, benefit etc.)
by Red frog rate this post as useful

Thanks 2008/10/3 22:33
for the reply & links Red frog, some of the few pages I hadn't seen yet!

People here just seem to think we're mad when we tell them we want to sleep ''on the floor'' - but having heard lots of positive experiences we've decided to take the plunge (and keeping our bed for a while anyway just in case we can't get used to it).
Considering the fact that we will be sleeping directly on tatamis we're probably better off with the 10 cm mattress (even though it won't be 2 singles but a ''semi double'' at 140 cms wide). Possibly have to build a very low frame (wood planks or similar) under the tatamis though since we have a tiled floor in our bedroom to avoid moisture build ups.
For frequent airing no problems since we live in Sicily and get lots of sunny days even in the winter and have a big balcony just off the bedroom.

Now just getting the final details to complete our order and hopefully in a couple of weeks we'll be sleeping on our futon :)
by Jo rate this post as useful

more ... 2008/10/4 14:47
In Japan the tatamis are placed on inexpensive wide wood boards or on sheets of plywood, just like wall to wall carpets(try to find marine plywood and one that doesn't use too many chemical glues). The humidity from your bodies will go from the futons to the tatami then evaporate back up especially if the room is aired everyday. That's why the futons are folded and put away (In Japan the cupboards/ closets in the rooms are 90 cm deep, the perfect size to store single futons that are about 75 cm wide and folded in a roughly 75 cm deep X 60 cm wide x 30 cm high package. In modern Japanese apartments, where only one room has tatamis --a sitting room in a corner of the living room and separated from it by sliding screens-- the bottom of the tatamis is lower than the wood floor of the living room and other rooms, so that the top of the tatamis is level with the wood floor. This is done because modern rooms are no longer based on the size of tatamis so the wood floor has to surround the tatamis on 2 or 3 sides to compensate for the odd size of rooms. Your idea of a low platform under the tatamis is easier than the above solution but it would look much nicer, I think, if the tatami covered area was definitely wider and longer than the futon. Obviously it depends also of the doors opening into that room, of closet doors etc. Good luck.
by Red frog rate this post as useful

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