Weird Japanese Things: Bedding

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.

Futon frame

Japanese bed

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.

Family Futon


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.


3 thoughts on “Weird Japanese Things: Bedding

  1. Is there really an anime show about my wife and I? I find that hard to believe because Emily hates cartoons and I have not received any royalty checks for the use of my likeness in an animated series about singing nomads (I roughly translated the title of the show based on my limited knowledge of foreign languages).

  2. Pingback: Odds and Ends 2 | Japanland

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