I’ve polled my students about this before, and it seems that my classes are split about 50/50 between bed-sleepers and futon-sleepers. Japanese futons are different from what Americans call futons. A Japanese-style futon is a thick mat that lies directly on the floor, or sometimes on a slatted frame. To keep the the stuffing from clumping and/or molding, futons have to be aired outside and vigorously beaten daily. Beds are a little different too, having only one layer instead of box springs and a mattress.
Japan’s population has actually been in decline for some years now and is predicted to drop by 30% – thirty percent! – within the next few decades. In a state of affairs unfathomable to the American mind, Japanese people are just not having sex/babies. Theories as to why include Japan’s uniformly high level of education and standard of living, the strange/fascinating/frustrating “herbivorous men” phenomenon (more on that later), and a general social malaise resulting from a decade-long economic funk. Personally, as sophisticated as those theories are, I think that Japanese bedding plays a bigger role than most people realize. Take a look:
His and Her Futons
By asking my Japanese friends questions that are a little more blunt that typically considered polite, I’ve discovered a lot about the sleeping arrangements of married couples in Japan. Apparently, it’s quite normal for husbands and wives to sleep on separate futons, and even in separate rooms. In quite a few households, the entire family shares one bedroom. This is more common when the children are younger, but my friend M-san said she, her bother and both her parents all slept in the same room until they moved into a new house when she was in high school. M-san explained that when a married people have children, they stop being a couple and become a mom and a dad. It’s hard for the Japanese psyche to reconcile romantic love and family love.
Through my research/nosiness, I’ve found that the family futon is not really that common, but I found this picture and thought it was worth posting. Someone must be using these for a catalog to be selling them, right? The Japan Times recently published an article titled Marriage Has Little to Do With Romantic Love, which offers an opinion on the romance/marriage/bedding question from the Japanese point of view.
Also, in case you thought I stopped being nerdy, I’ve have finished watching four more anime series: Kimi ni Todoke (which I highly recommend for shoujo fans), Fullmetal Alchemist (classic), Nodame Cantabile (a.k.a. the Emily and Matt show) and Durarara. I tried watching Crayon Shin-chan, but while it was hilarious, I couldn’t get past the ugly drawing style. Hourou Musuko is my newest endeavor, which airs during the Japanese version of Adult Swim. It’s a drama about a few students at a Japanese junior high who are dealing with transsexuality and other gender identity issues.