The Complete Futon Mattress Buying Guide

The Complete Futon Mattress Buying Guide

A Japanese shikibuton is a versatile addition to any home. Whether you’re using it on top of a futon frame as a small-space sofa alternative, on the floor as a guest bed, or with a tatami mat as a full-time sleeping arrangement.

Searching for a futon mattress for your home? The way you intend to use it, your comfort preferences, and your storage capabilities will all influence the best choice for your lifestyle.

Find the right Japanese style futon for your needs with our guide below.

Shikifuton Rolled up


Start here: How Will You Use Your Futon Mattress?

The J-Life shikibuton mattress is designed to be used nightly as a bed, in place of a spring mattress and box spring. Our Japanese mattress can also be used to serve a variety of alternative uses, though, including travel, having guests over, and as a substitute for other types of furniture. The investment you’re willing to make and the comfort level you’re searching for from your futon mattress will differ depending on how - and how often - you plan to use it. 

Plan to use it as a sofa / guest bed?

If you plan to keep your futon mattress rolled up in a closet, or use it with a frame as a sofa alternative until guests arrive, you'll find your options seem endless, since you'll be able to consider both "occasional use" mattresses as well as those that are designed for everyday sleeping.

  • Storage: If you plan to store your mattress until it's needed, you'll want a mattress that's flexible enough to be either rolled up, or folded two or three times, depending on the size of your storage space. Thinner Japanese shikifuton mattresses are ideal for this - particularly our 3” thickness in a smaller size, such as cot or twin - but we’ll discuss that more later in this guide.
  • Comfort: If you plan to use the mattress as a sofa or chair, make sure that it's something you find comfortable for both sitting and lying down. Depending on the frame you use, a thicker mattress might be necessary so you don't feel the frame construction underneath. 
  • Aesthetics: Looks will play a part in the mattress you choose if your futon doubles as a sofa, since it'll be a big part of your decor. Our custom shikifuton covers can be swapped out and washed as they become soiled, or if your decor preferences change. 

Plan to use your futon mattress as your everyday bed?

If you plan to sleep on your futon mattress every night, on the other hand, your priorities will be a little different.

  • Comfort: Of course, you'll want the mattress you're sleeping on each night to be comfortable and supportive for your sleeping style. Choosing a thinner futon mattress, placed directly on the floor will create ideal support for back-sleepers, for example, while stomach and side sleepers will want a mattress with more cushion. Placing a tatami mat under any of our shikifutons will create an extra layer of cushion, plus it will help you protect the longevity of your new mattress.
Our best-selling 4-inch shikifuton mattress offers an excellent medium-level of firmness that will work for most styles of sleepers. Our 3-inch super firm shikifuton (available in organic or all-natural) is the thinnest and most firm mattress we offer, while our 5-inch organic shikifuton is the thickest. This mattress is still considered firm, but less so than our 3-inch and 4-inch options. (We’ll talk more about the exact differences between our mattresses in the next section.)
    • Quality: If you're using a mattress every night, it needs to hold up to extensive use. With proper care, a J-Life shikifuton can last decades or more. This makes them a more budget- friendly investment than an innerspring mattress, which can easily cost over $1000 dollars and last as little as 5 years.
    • Storage: If you live in a small space, like a tiny home or studio apartment, you'll again want to consider storage, and opt for a mattress that can easily be stored away during the day to create extra space. The shikifuton is ideal for this, as it allows you to utilize your sleeping area during the day by tucking your bed away.
    Traditionally, the shikifuton is intended to be placed on the floor for sleeping. In Japan, a tatami mat is typically used underneath the shikifuton. These grass sleeping mats create a moisture barrier and allow for airflow underneath the mattress, plus they add a bit of cushion to your sleep surface.

    If you’re interested in other alternative uses for your shikifuton, such as travel, check out our blog about the topic!

    Multiple Shikifutons with Covers

    Next: Choose Your Futon Mattress Material & Thickness

    An authentic Japanese futon bed is traditionally made from cotton, but in modern times, alternative fillings have gained popularity since they are typically cheaper to manufacture. The prices and quality of these synthetic options are wide ranging.

    Here at J-Life International, our goal has always been to offer a traditional futon bed that adheres closely to the centuries-old tradition of the shikifuton. Below, we’ll discuss the downsides of some of the most popular synthetic shikifuton fillings, and why we only use 100% cotton in our Japanese futons.

    Memory-Foam Futon Mattress

    • Do you tend to sweat or get warm easily when you sleep? If so, memory foam won't be your best choice, since foam mattresses tend to trap body heat.
    • While memory foam beds may feel soft and squishy, they tend to lack support, which is not healthy for your muscles and joints in the long term.
    • Most memory foam is made from a concoction of chemicals that aren’t great for the environment or your health. Standard memory foam is made from polyurethane and treated with flame retardants, both of which have been linked to a host of health problems. According to, a few of the chemicals that have been found on memory foam mattresses include:
      • Methyl benzene - which can affect the nervous system.
      • Dimethylformamide - a possible carcinogen.
      • Methylene chloride - a solvent and a known mucous membrane irritant.
      • Formaldehyde - a toxic chemical that is easily absorbed by inhalation.
      • Vinilideine chloride - which can irritate eyes.
    • Finally, many memory foam mattresses come vacuum-packed and take a few days to re-inflate. Once opened, they can emit a chemical smell for a few weeks while they off-gas, releasing all of those chemicals and odors directly into your home.

    Innerspring Futon Mattress

    • Innerspring foam mattresses are also often treated with fire retardants, including Melamine resin (which contains formaldehyde), Chlorinated tris (a possible neurotoxin and endocrine disruptor).
    • Spring mattresses are notoriously uncomfortable and unreliable. After just a few years of consistent use, spring mattresses create pressure points that cause discomfort while sleeping and lasting pain.
    • Similarly to memory foam, spring mattresses slowly compress over time, creating an uneven sleep surface that causes your neck and back to be misaligned while sleeping. This often results in uncomfortable, disrupted sleep as well as painful, achy mornings. 

    All Natural Cotton Shikifuton

    Shikifutons are traditional Japanese-style futon mattresses made of 100% cotton and designed for nightly use (and are still a common choice in Japan today!) Our shikibuton benefits include: 

    • Made from exclusively all-natural materials (cover is 100% unbleached cotton duck, fill is also made from 100% cotton for comfort and natural air-flow.)
    • Rolls up and stores away easily. 
    • Known to ease back, neck, and joint pain, since they're designed to be placed on the floor for a firm sleep surface. 
    • Optional, custom removable covers made from imported traditional Japanese fabrics or premium washable silk can be purchased to change the look of your bed.
    • Easy to care for.
    • The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC) requires all mattresses to contain some form of flame retardant. Our All-Natural Japanese Futon uses naturally occurring boron, which has been tested to be safe for human health, so you can rest easy knowing your mattress is supporting your health, not harming it. You can learn more about boron - and why we chose it - on our blog.

    The J-Life All-Natural Shikibuton is available in two thicknesses: a 4-inch and a more traditional 3-inch. In Japan, modern shikibuton are about 3-inches thick. Our more popular 4-inch futon is made to accommodate those who like a softer sleeping surface.

    Organic Cotton Shikifuton

    Our Japanese organic cotton shikifuton mattress features all of the same comfort and benefits as the aforementioned all natural shikifuton, but with a few differences:

    • Made from exclusively organic materials: casing is 10 oz. certified organic cotton twill. The fill is also made from 100% certified American-grown organic cotton.
    • The organic shikibuton meets US fire retardant standards by using certified organic wool material that does not contain any boron.

    The J-Life Organic Shikibuton is available in two thicknesses: a 3-inch traditional thickness, or a 5-inch thickness - the thickest shikifuton we offer.

    Japanese Sleep System

    Lastly: Choose a Futon Size

    Like most Japanese futon beds, ours come in standard mattress sizes: Cot, Twin, Twin XL, Full, and Queen.

    Cot Twin TwinXL Full Queen King*
    30" x 75" 39" x 75" 39" x 80" 54" x 75" 60" x 80" 78" x 80"


    For reference, below are our standard shikibuton sizes and recommended usage.

    • Cot

    Measuring 30 inches wide and 75 inches long, cot is our most compact shikifuton size; ideal for small spaces, travel, and easy storage. Fits one person.

    • Twin / Twin XL

    A twin size shikibuton is approximately 39 inches wide by 75 inches long, while a twinXL shikibuton is 38 inches wide by 80 inches long. Both are wide enough to comfortably fit one person, and the twinXL offers 5 inches of extra length for those who may be too tall for the twin size.

    • Full

    Approximately 54 inches wide by 75 inches long, the J-Life full size shikibuton can comfortably fit one or two people who don’t mind a smaller sleep surface.

    • Queen

    Our queen size futon mattress runs 60 inches wide by 80 inches long. The queen size shikibuton is the most comfortable option for sleeping two adults.

    • King*

    While we don’t offer a king size shikibuton at J-Life, one can easily be made by placing two twinXL shikifutons side-by-side. This creates a 78-inch by 80-inch sleep surface that can comfortably fit two people (and probably a few pets, too!)

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    Very helpful guide!! You said it right, a futon mattress provides comfort as well as will be worthwhile in terms of the quality of your sleep.

    Sleep Center

    Sleep Center

    Thank you for sharing this helpful information about best futon frame Guide. I’ve never purchased a futon before and would appreciate your advice.

    Rabila Manso

    We really love this! We moved and didn’t have a bed frame. This shikifuton in 4" thickness and full size was perfect. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked, even on a bare hardwood floor. It is worth the price and will stay around as our guest mattress. Convenient, quick, dependable, smells like sleep!


    The earthy smell on your new shikibuton is the smell of natural unbleached cotton. It should go away sooner than later. I love it.

    Michael M

    Can u tell me if the 5" futon will have a cover for it? Im only seeing shiki buton covers.

    Janine Boguslawski

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