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Traditional Futon Beds
Futon is Japanese traditional furniture, basically a mattress that makes up a bed which is still commonly used today. Futons first appeared as weed-made rags in ancient Japan. A traditional futon set usually costs under 10,000 yen (around$83) sold at specialty stores called futon-Ya in Japan and other department stores. A traditional Japanese futon set generally consists of a mattress called a shikibuton wrapped in Shikifu or sheets, a comforter called Kakebuton covered with a kakebuton cover, blanket called mōfu, and a pillow called makura. The makura is usually filled with beans, buckwheat chaff, or plastic beads. The 4 to 5 cm thick futon itself is flat, having a fabric exterior stuffed with cotton and/or synthetic batting.
In Japan, there is a variety of futons available depending on the season. For example, futon may be made of feathers, which is light and comfortable during summers. Thick and heavy futons may otherwise be used in the summer season. Futons are designed to be laid on Tatami - a traditional Japanese flooring created from individual woven straw mats of uniform size and shape, bordered by brocade or plain black cloth, and packed with straw. Styrofoam may also be used with the recent ones.
The traditional futon, when not in use, can be folded away and stored in a closet called oshiire, which has sliding doors and is usually divided into two shelves. The futon is generally stored on the upper shelf, and since Japanese homes are typically small in size, a room may be used for multiple purposes such as functioning both as a living and dining room. The futon quite comes in quite handy when considering this since it can be easily stored away. The Western Transformation: The futon become popular in the United until after World War II. In the 1960s, handmade cotton pads were used by hippies, students and health enthusiasts as alternatives for conventional beds. The first significant transformation, about a decade later, was the introduction of convertible frames which turned the futon into a bed-cum-couch furniture. By the 1980s, the popularity of the futon had reached its peak in the United States and other western countries, and people started buying it in large quantities. The transformation continued with the introduction of components such as innersprings, pocket springs, coil, foam and polyester mattresses, as well as electric frames with massagers. The futon had become considerably westernized towards the end of the decade that it became almost hard to recognize a Western-style futon as a “futon”. The popularity of the futon also spread to the country of its origin, and top Japanese futon manufacturer, Maruhachi Mawata, started manufacturing futons resembling the western style in 1997.
Older generation of Japanese still very much use the traditional futon but younger people prefer the comfort, style and added features of the western style. Incidentally by the year 2001, there was a 60 percent increase in the use of western style futons and beds in Japan.