Various ancient civilizations including Babylon and Mesopotamia were known to have used cotton filled mattresses to sleep on. This type of bedding was preferred for its comfort, support and could be used in different climatic conditions. However it is the Japanese who have been credited with creating and popularizing what is today referred to as futon. Originally from Japan, Futons are thin mattresses that were typically designed to be spread on special kind of flooring common in Japan known as tatami. This flooring was in form of two inch mats which were made of rice straw. Tatami covered the floors of most of their houses. The actual word futon in Japanese means bedding, and included the mattress and duvet covering or comforter. In Japanese the mattress like structure which is today referred to as futon is known as shikibuton while the duvet is known as kekebuiton. Original Futons were slightly different in structure. They measured about two or three inches in thickness and were made of long staple cotton which happens to be the most valuable part of an unprocessed cotton ball. This long staple made the futon sturdy and prevented any bumps or pulling apart of the mattress. As a ritual, the Japanese took their futons to what was then known as a futon specialist who removed the outer covering, washes the cotton and returns the covering. The same was done for the bedding used to cover. This practice was carried out once every year.
A daily practice among the Japanese involved rolling out futons every night to sleep on and rolling them up again in the morning. They were usually stored them in closets during the day or put out to air in the sun. Apart from the fact that they were comfortable Japanese liked the portability of the futon and this was because space was very important and well regarded in the ancient Japanese culture. The Futon concept has been adapted in various cultures becoming common bedding in many parts of the world. Unlike in traditional Japanese culture, other cultures use futons for various uses and not only for sleeping on.
In America the futon began to gain its foothold in the late 1960’s and early seventies. What started with a few Japanese people introducing it to American friends turned into a flourishing industry. Futons started being hand made in America in cottage industries, which distributed them to different locations. The concept started being slowly adopted by people outside the Japanese culture owing to its comfort and its ability to save space. As the industry grew, the popularity of the futon created the need for formal regulation. Federal standards began to be complied with in the mid-seventies and required the manufactures to carry out similar standardizing texts as conventional mattress makers. The irony is that the western style futons are now just as popular in Japan as they are in other parts of the world. Modern futons are now mass produced all over the world in various shapes and styles.