LWIF EP10: Inside a Japanese Kid’s Bedroom

Hello World! Do Japanese kids really sleep on the floor? Are the floors really made from grass (rice straw)? Do they roll up their beds?

Yes, most Japanese kids do put a futon on the floor and sleep on it. There are some kids that have raised beds or even bunk beds, like in the West though.

Aiko and Shin’s bedroom flooring is a tatami mat, which is made from rice straw woven together using special machines. In newer houses laminated or wood flooring is more likely (but many places still have one tatami mat room). There’s hardly any houses that have carpeting (if carpet is wanted a rug is used).

During the day time, beds can be folded up (with two folds / three parts), and either put to the side in a room or stored in a closet. If you’re lazy like Aiko and Shin, beds can be left on the ground. However, since bodies sweat at night, your futon can get mouldy because there’s not enough air circulation underneath.

Frequently Asked Questions

How comfortable is it to sleep on that roll up pad (futon)?

Like beds in the West, it depends on the type of futon you have. A regular futon isn’t very comfortable for my adult body, but I find the kids don’t complain at all. The kid’s room also has tatami flooring, which makes the floor softer.

I used to use a foam mattress under my single-sized futon to soften things up, but we recently purchased a more expensive double-sized futon (about $300 USD). It has this loose spaghetti-like plastic in the bottom layer, which kind of looks like tumble weeds all bunched together. That layer is maybe an inch or two. The top layer is made from foam. I was nervous about buying it and wondered if it would really be more comfortable, but it’s been six months and I have no complaints so far.

Where are the shelves?

Since we rent, we’re not allowed to put anything into a wall that would result in a hole bigger than a pin. In the Japanese homes (not rental units) that I’ve visited, I’ve found that it’s not very common to attach things to walls. This is pure speculation, but I’ve thought of a couple reasons why.

First, since there are frequent earthquakes, hanging things on walls (or having shelves to hold things) is probably not so safe.

Second, wallpaper is quite common, so if you’re drilling into wallpaper, it’s a lot harder to cover up than if you only had to plaster the hole and paint it over.

Older homes have wood frames about a foot from the ceiling and I’ve notice special hooks designed to grab onto them. So I’ve hooks for clothing and pictures attached to the wood frames in this manner.

Japanese apartments have small floor areas so I thought there would be more vertical use of space, like bunk beds with built in desk and such, and shelves on every wall.

As mentioned above, shelves on walls aren’t as common as in the West, but they do have shelving that sits on the ground. Floor space is multi-use, so I think that’s how Japanese people get around the space issue. For example, instead of having a solid bed frame in the bedroom, you just roll up your bed and voila – space! In fact, my work desk is in my bedroom and every morning I roll up my bed to get some more space.

Tables and chairs are becoming more popular, but it’s still very common to have a large coffee table used for eating dinner. I remember getting a new dining table set and inviting the in-laws over. I left the food on the coffee table and the plates on the dining table. They all sat on the ground using the coffee table. No one used the dining table! And there were nine or ten of us!