Japanese Floor Pillows

Sally Painter
Japanese floor pillows

Japanese floor pillows come is several styles, but the traditional style is called a zabuton.

Traditional Zabuton Japanese Cushion Pillow

The zabuton cushion is a Japanese pillow that's used for sitting, generally on the floor. The Japanese characters mean seat cloth sphere. This style of seating is the most common in Japan.

Description of Japanese Floor Pillows

The zabuton pillow cushion is a 20" to 36" square and between 3" to 4" thick. The pillow cushion is designed to support the knees and ankles. Other traditional pillows were a 36" square and 3" thick. A meditation zabuton is a rectangle shape instead of a square to allow for greater support during various yoga poses or meditation.

Pillow Construction

A traditional zabuton is made out of cotton batting. Sometimes, the batting is a mixture of cotton and polyester. The pillow is covered with a natural muslin, ready for your outer pillowcase. With home fashion high styles you can find a wide variety of fabric and color choices for your outer pillow cover. The Japanese use zabutons not just for seating at meals, but also for watching TV, homework, tea ceremonies, and even when meditating. Many people purchase several pillow covers to change out the décor, especially those who enjoy changing the interior look of their homes with each season. The pillows can be easily stacked on top of each other for use or for storing.

Zafu, Another Japanese Style Floor Cushion

The zabuton isn't the only Japanese pillow designed for the floor. To complete the authentic Japanese look, you'll need a zafu. The zafu is a round cushion that's traditionally filled with kapok fiber, made from the kapok tree seed pods or buckwheat hulls. The zafu is used in combination with the zabuton, especially if you use the pillows for meditation or seating for dining. You need to place the zafu on top of the zabuton. This will give you additional padding for long periods of sitting as well as more height. If you suffer from allergies, then you'll want to purchase pillows made of hypoallergenic fibers and other materials. Organic Japanese pillows are easy to find and are a great investment if you have any question about allergic reactions to kapok or buckwheat hulls.

Various Uses of Zabuton Pillows

While the first and most common use of a Japanese floor pillow is for seating, there are a few other uses and symbolism attached to them that are a large part of the Japanese culture. For example, during a sumo (wrestling match), if the audience becomes irate or disapproves of the match or some aspect, it's perfectly acceptable for them to throw their zabutons at the wrestling ring.

  • You can use a floor pillow to assist and lend support while practicing certain yoga poses.
  • The zabuton is characterized as a life necessity in certain Japanese television shows.
  • During a rakugo, which is a skit performed by a storyteller, the performer sits on a zabuton during the entire show.

The Art of Sitting

As in other things in the Japanese culture, sitting is an artform. Proper sitting is practiced in formal styles of seating situations. There are several ways to properly sit on a floor pillow.

  • Sitting by raising one knee in a resting position
  • Cross-legged
  • Sideways
  • Sit on zafu with legs bent underneath you onto zabuton with ankles also supported by zabuton.

Adding a Touch of Japanese Décor

You don't need a traditional Japanese décor in order to use this kind of floor pillow. You can add a few zabutons around your coffee table for a fun makeshift dining experience. This is a great way for the family to enjoy pizza night. Playing board games or card games is other great way to make use of these exceptional floor pillows. If you aren't one to sit on the floor, then you can use the pillows as a foot rest. The pillows are large enough and comfortable enough to serve as additional sleeping foundations for children.

Collector Pillows

One of the most sought after styles of Japanese pillows for the floor is a dyed fabric known as the shibori. This term encompasses several kinds of dyeing techniques. Tie dyeing is the closest comparison in the Western world with is equivalent to the shibori dyeing technique known as twisting. However, shibori is more complex than tie dyeing and has a wider variety of techniques. The shibori can be created by folding, twisting, stitching, and even binding patterns into the cloth prior to dyeing.

Purchasing Pillows

You can find quite a selection of zabuton floor pillows. You'll often find them listed as yoga or meditation pillows or cushions. You can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $100 or more for each pillow, depending on the kind of fabric used in its construction. Many Japanese floor pillows are designed to be highly decorative with various embellishments such as fringe, tassels or beaded trims. Whatever your personal taste and style of interior design, you're sure to find a floor pillow that will suit your needs at one of the following links.

Japanese Floor Pillows