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Getting the Most out of Your Shikifuton: 5 Alternative Uses for Your Japanese Mattress

The Japanese traditional shikifuton is a sleep system composed of the shikibuton sleeping mat (mattress) and kakefuton (duvet), which is then laid on top of a tatami mat. These Japanese-style futons are used in place of thick, spring mattresses and prioritize practicality by allowing the sleeping area to be rolled up and stored/ moved when not in use. The tatami mat underneath serves a similar purpose to Western box springs: improved airflow and increased support.

The shikifuton can be much more than just a mattress, though, and can be a worthwhile investment whether or not you plan on making the change to sleeping on a shikifuton full-time. Continue reading to learn some of the creative ways J-Life recommends using a shikibuton!

  • As a seat
  • Our shikifuton makes for a great alternative to a bean bag or lounger chair in any room in the house. Prop it up to read books in your sitting room on a lazy Sunday or to work from home when your back is tired of sitting in a stiff desk chair all day. Place it in your reading nook for an extra comfortable sitting surface.

  • Cozy corner
  • Kids and adults can both benefit from these little cozy nooks. It is a small space dedicated to simply relaxing and recharging; somewhere for grown ups to unwind after a long work day and enjoy a nice cup of wine, sake, or tea. For children, a cozy corner is somewhere for them to relax, as well as a place where they can feel free to learn, explore, and play. Place your shikifuton in your chosen “corner” (any space will do), then surround it with a warm blanket and fuzzy pillows. Add a table with books/ magazines and coasters for adults, and toys for children. These spaces don’t have to be reserved for one person either! Use them as somewhere the whole family can play, cuddle, read or just simply spend time together. 

  • American-style futon/ daybed
  • Shikifutons are perfect for small spaces- and so are daybeds! These multipurpose furniture pieces are amazing for small apartments, studios, and anyone who needs to make the most out of their limited space. Use a shikifuton on a daybed or American futon frame for an easily convertible and comfortable seat and mattress. If you’re someone who wants sleeping space for a guest but doesn’t have the ability to dedicate an entire guest room, this is a great option for you.

    (Photo By: Jeff Waldman, @elevatedspace, www.elevatedspaces.ca)

  • Travel/ sleeping out
  • One of the best features of a folding bed is that they can be easily rolled up for storage and moving. The average Western spring mattress can weigh over 100 pounds and is a dreaded multi-person project to move- even from one room to the next. Your shikifuton can easily be rolled up by one person and packed into a car for travel. By keeping one in your trunk, no matter where you go you’ll have the comfort and convenience of a bed that can simply be rolled out for sleep anywhere you go. Keep one in the back of the car for spontaneous, smaller-scale things where a portable mattress might be convenient, such as drive-in theaters, picnics, stargazing, and wherever else life takes you! With a shikifuton in the trunk, you’ll always be prepared.

  • Camping mattress/ RV
  • Similar to the last idea, Japanese futons are a great choice as a bed/ couch in outdoor settings. Easily movable and removable, having this comfy sleeping option on your next outdoor excursion is a must. Use it in tents as a sleeping mat instead of dealing with a bulky cot or thin sleeping bag. R/Vs also tend to have limited seating and sleeping options, plus they can come with uncomfortable, stiff mattresses. Use our shikifuton as a replacement for your R/V mattress, a topper, or as a comfortable seating surface. Shikiftuons can also be used in smaller camping setups like truck beds since they allow for plenty of space and cushioning. However you choose to use it, you’ll have all of the comfort of your bed at home while in the great outdoors!


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