When I say “futon”, most people in the US will think of a couch that folds down into a bed. The mattress part is the actual futon, and is a traditional Japanese style bed. Futons lie directly on the floor with a duvet and pillow on top. In the daytime you fold up your bedding and place it in the closet so the room can be used for other things. Many people use regular beds now, or sometimes floor bed frames, but it’s by no means uncommon for families to still use futons. On particularly sunny days you’ll walk the streets and find futons draped over balconies and window sills to be cleaned by the sun. You may even catch a glimpse of a housewife in her matronly apron beating the dust out with vigor.
Matsumoto Backpackers has futons in all its rooms, adding a nice traditional feeling to the place. I was happy to get mine all set up and settle in there. The owner also aired out the futons on sunny days, and folded up the ones that weren’t in use. Meanwhile I kept mine all set up in the corner and thought nothing of it. That is, until my very last morning there.
I woke up nice and early to be sure to make my train. I packed, ate breakfast, swept the room, stripped the bed, and folded the mattress. Then I noticed a little puddle of water by the bed. Maybe I had spilled my waterbottle while taking off the sheets? No matter, I wiped it up, and carried the futon over to the window so I could hang it out. But why were there water droplets on the floor now? After laying it over the sill, I saw the water dripping directly off the futon. I flipped it over and was both fascinated and horrified by what I saw. On the other side of the futon was a vibrant colony of mold. It grew out from the center in an explosion of colors, from the usual black to green, to red, purple, and orange. This needed some serious airing, but I was afraid to throw it over the sill lest the neighbors see and judge the hostel based off my mistake. I set it upright inside and ran about finishing my preparations. This included an email to my host apologizing profusely.
But where did all that water come from? After having read about using hot water bottles, you may be thinking that they leaked. They were fully secure. The problem was that on cold alpine nights when the floor is cold to the touch and a warm futon is placed on top, condensation is bound to occur. All of the other beds were fine because they were being aired properly. Mine, on the other hand, sat collecting moisture with nowhere for it to escape.
I learned an important lesson that day and vowed to be more careful with futons in the future.