We have to start by mentioning that futon is a reference to natural fiber. It follows, then, that futon mattresses are those which are filled with ‘futon’ natural fiber, in much the same way other mattresses are filled with air, water, foam and coil-springs. It is on account of being filled with such futons that the futon mattresses turn out to be soft yet reasonably firm, which in turn makes them reasonably comfortable for sleeping on. Futon mattresses are a Japanese invention, which have gained popularity in the west, leading to the birth of the remarkably different ‘western futons.’
Advantages associated with futon mattresses
The first major advantage associated with futon mattresses is in the fact that they tend to be very cost-effective. Before the advent of cheap foam mattress, futon mattresses were the cheapest (decent) types of mattresses one could get. Even today, futons still compete favorably in terms of price with the cheapest foam mattresses.
Unlike the cheapest foam mattresses, however, even the cheapest futon mattresses are likely to be quite durable. Low-end futon mattresses would, furthermore, tend to offer more support and hence greater comfort to those who make use of them, than the thin low-end (and typically similarly priced) foam mattresses.
Unlike foams, which happen to be a highly inflammable material and a huge hazard in case of fire, futons (that is, the natural fibers used to fill futon mattresses) are observed to have the opposite effects of retarding the spread of fires. This means that in this regard, futon mattresses are actually safer than, say, foam mattresses.
Disadvantages associated with futon mattresses
The first major disadvantage associated with futon mattresses is in the fact that they tend to rather heavy. This is thanks to the weight of the natural fibers with which they are filled.
Futon mattresses may also need to be regularly aired, if hygiene is to be properly maintained.
We also have people who feel that futon mattresses are not ‘classy’ enough for their tastes.
And then, there is the fact that, even for those who desire them, futon mattresses are not always that easily available in mattress stores. Most mattress stores prefer to stock foam and spring mattress, hence this dearth of futon mattresses.
Distinctions between oriental and occidental futons
As mentioned earlier, futons were originally a Japanese invention. They have, however, found widespread acceptance and popularity in the west – leading to the birth of western futons.
Western futons are typically thicker than Japanese futons. Whereas a three-inch thick futon would be considered ‘thick’ in traditional oriental thinking, a six inch futon would, in the west, be considered to be on the thin side.
We have also seen the adoption of non-natural fibers (such as polyester) in filling western futons, whereas traditional Japanese futons were typically only filled with natural fabrics.