zabuton

Zabuton

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    A zabuton (Japanese cushion) is a furnishing item for placing the legs or buttocks under when sitting on the floor or tatami. A zabuton has a square shape with a side length of about ten centimetres and a thickness of several centimetres and is similar in shape to futon mattresses, only smaller.

    Zabuton are not only used for sitting, but these simple objects are used in many ways, for example folded in half as a simple pillow, as an alternative to a small futon to put babies to sleep, or as protective clothing to protect the head from falling objects.

    In recent years, with the change in lifestyle of the Japanese, zabuton were made to sit on chairs, and many small products adapted to the shape of chairs came into use.

    Zabuton Origins

    The origin of zabuton dates back to the Kamakura period, and they became the form we know today in the middle of the Edo period, when they became widely used among ordinary people, although before that they were symbols of the power of high priests and other powerful people.

    The traditional way to sit on zabuton is seiza style, where you kneel with your legs crossed under you and the tops of your feet resting on the floor, but they are also used cross-legged.

    How are zabuton made?

    Zabuton are made by repeatedly layering and folding cotton until you have the perfect shape.

    Although this is a simple premise, the process is complex and requires skill and patience to create a comfortable cushion.

    The cover is usually made from cotton, linen or silk and you will notice some interesting distinguishing features on each zabuton.

    For example, if you find a zabuton cushion in the city of Kyoto, you will notice a sampo-toji, or three-pronged stitch, in the centre that shows the sitter which way the cushion should face.

    On high-quality zabuton cushions, you will also find tassels at the four corners, signifying good luck.

    The best zabuton floor cushions are completely handmade and the difference in quality is immediately apparent.

    From cutting the initial cotton to sewing, stuffing and finishing, hours of work and passion go into each cushion.

    The challenge for zabuton's artisans is to ensure that the padding is firm and even throughout the layering process, otherwise lumps can occur or they simply don't offer the same benefits to your body.

    Zabuton are a perfect example of how traditional Japanese design and culture can be enjoyed functionally as part of a modern lifestyle.