What is a Shikibuton Anyway?

by Alex Santander September 24, 2014 2 Comments


One of our most popular product lines is our traditional, all-organic shikibuton. It's also the product that we receive the most questions about. Something like this: "so, what is a shikibuton?" or "what's the difference between a shikibuton and a futon?" Well, to answer those questions, we first need to address what a futon actually is.

Futon is a Sino-Japanese word that literally means 'round cushions filled with cattail flower spikes,' but refers to the entire bedroom set. The bedroom set, or futon, includes the shikibuton, which is the bed cushion, and the thick quilted bedcover, the kakebuton. In English, the word, "futon," used to describe the futon we all know--a thick mattress made with layers of fiber and other materials (in our case, organic cotton, latex, and wool), which are then tufted together.

Now that we got that out of the way, let's tackle the shikibuton. So, how is the shikibuton, which is the cushion in the Japanese futon setup, different from the Western futon? Thickness. The shikibuton is about half the thickness of the standard Western futon--ranging from 3" - 4" of loft. Of course it isn't that simple; the difference stems from approaching the mattress from two different philosophies—in the West, the futon is a bed/sofa replacement, while in Japan the shikibuton is a mattress that is designed to be used on the floor and put away each morning (hence its easily-folding thin profile).

What that means for you, the consumer, is three things: One, the shikibuton is going to be overall a firmer sleeping experience than a futon would be (unless you layer two shikibutons on top of each other or add a mattress topper, as many of our customers do). Two, you will need to flip and rotate your shikibuton every 2-3 weeks in order to make sure it wears evenly and doesn't develop body impressions. And lastly, since shikibutons were originally developed to be used on the floor, they don't work on traditional bed frames.

That last sentence bears a bit more explanation.

Shikibutons were created to be used on the floor and picked up every day and put away--something most of us aren't willing to do. However, if used on the floor and not picked up in the morning, the shikibuton doesn't have access to proper airflow and can develop mildew, or worse, mold. And, due to their thin build, if used directly on a slatted bed frame, those slats can be felt through the mattress (unless multiple shikibutons are used). To address this, we sell Tatami Frames that are specially designed to hold Tatami Mats,  which provide a breathable and completely flat surface for your shikibuton! Not only do they take care of aeration, but they are beautiful to boot.

Still have questions? Don't hesitate to contact us for further information. We will happily answer all your questions.

Alex Santander
Alex Santander


2 Responses


July 27, 2016


Thanks for the kind words! We’re so glad you found this article helpful!

We at Soaring Heart can revitalize your shikibuton if you got it from us. Feel free to call or email us to learn more!

Again, thank you!


July 20, 2016

Thank you for this awesome article! This is very helpful and gives great context.

What do I do if I’ve got a shikibuton that’s got body impressions and has probably not worn evenly? Is there a way to set it right?

Many thanks!

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