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A futon (布団?) is traditional Japanese bedding comprising a quilted mattress that is usually laid on the floor. A bedding set consists of both a mattress (敷き布団 shikibuton?, lit. "spreading futon") and a duvet (掛け布団 kakebuton?, lit. "covering futon"), although the word "futon" is also used to refer specifically to the mattress. Both elements of a futon bedding set are pliable enough to be folded and stored away during the day, allowing the room to serve for purposes other than as a bedroom.
Western-style futons, which typically resemble low, wooden sofa beds, differ substantially from their Japanese counterparts.
Originally written as "蒲団" (futon; lit. "cattail" + "round"), the word "futon" originally referred to a round cushion filled with cattail leaves. Today, futons are generally filled with cotton, and the character "布" (fu; lit. "cloth") is now generally used as ateji in place of "蒲" (fu; lit. "cattail").
A Japanese futon is a thin mattress with a fabric exterior stuffed with cotton, wool, or synthetic batting. Futons are sold in Japan at specialty stores called futon'ya (布団屋?) as well as at department stores. They are often sold in sets that include the mattress and the duvet. Other usual bedding items include a blanket (毛布 mōfu?), a taoruketto (タオルケット?, a summer blanket resembling a large towel), and a pillow (枕 makura?) generally filled with beans, buckwheat chaff, or plastic beads. Futons are designed to be placed on tatami flooring, and are traditionally folded away and stored in a closet during the day to allow the tatami to breathe and to allow for flexibility in the use of the room. Futons must be aired in sunlight regularly, especially if not put away during the day. In addition, many Japanese beat their futons regularly with a futon beater (布団叩き futon-tataki?) to prevent the padding from matting. A futon-beater is a special instrument, traditionally made from bamboo, which resembles a Western carpet beater.
Futon are available in single, semi-double, and double sizes.
The Western futon is based on the Japanese original, with several major differences. It is almost always placed on a configurable wood or metal frame for dual use as a bed and a chair or couch. Typically, the frame folds in the middle, allowing the futon to be used as a couch, and flattens for use as a bed. It is usually filled with foam as well as batting, often in several layers, and is often much thicker and larger than Japanese futons, resembling a traditional mattress in size. Western-style futons are an alternative to a bed or other furniture, and are often sold in sets that include the mattress and frame. Futons normally feature a removable and replaceable cover in a variety of colours to match evolving modern decorating tastes. Western futon mattress fillings vary from the economical offcut pieces of foam to the higher quality eco-friendly natural fillings of felt and wool.
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