It’s been brought to my attention that when I say “futon” people are probably imagining something different than what I actually mean. When I say “futon” I mean the Japanese futon, not the Americanized one. “Futon” in the States is a couch/bed, depending on what time of the day it is or how tired you really are. They can fold (hopefully) easily into a couch or slide down to make a bed. They look like this:
The Japanese idea of “futon” is quite different. The traditional futon is made of three main parts: the shikibuton (mattress) is usually stuffed with cotton batting and wrapped in a sheet; the kakebuton (comforter) is different depending on the season, lighter in the summer and heavier in the winter and it always wrapped in a kakebuton cover; the third part is the makura (pillow) and is stuffed with red beans or buckwheat chaff.* The futons are traditionally laid on tatami mats (woven straw) and because of the moisture that collects inside of them, they need to be aired out at least once a week. On sunny days they are hung outside for a few hours, beaten and then brought back inside. The traditional Japanese futon looks like this:
As you can see, the differences between the two are vast. For my futon I use all of the parts except for the pillow (I prefer my own). Since Steph and I sleep in a loft, we don’t have to fold them but they are normally folded and put inside a closet during the day to clear up the floor. And since our floors aren’t tatami we don’t have to air them out as much but it’s still a necessity.
*Information taken from here