Unlike their western counterparts, Japanese culture is focused on minimalism, simplicity, functionality, and the relationship between Nature and the interior of the home. While most modern-day furniture options are focused exclusively on comfort, luxury, and extravagance, the end result is often a cluttered living space that leaves your home feeling less “livable” despite the extra things that are purchased to supposedly increase comfort levels.
In this short article, we take an in-depth look at the history of Japanese interior design, the importance and benefits of incorporating Japanese furniture into your home even when you are not from the Orient, and offer a few suggestions for what to consider when choosing between the varied assortments of Japanese furniture options. We then go on to review the top 14 Japanese furniture options on the market today.
The History of Japanese Furniture
Shintoism and Buddhism are the two largest religions in Japan. Historically, these religions focused on simplicity and austerity. These religious values translated directly into the livelihoods and lifestyles of Japanese culture. Traditional Japanese homes would be considered “empty” by modern-day American or European standards. In fact, many Japanese homes continue to willingly go without certain types of furniture that we might consider to be indispensable, choosing rather to sit directly on the floor for meals instead of at a kitchen table.
Most Japanese people revere the concept of “ma”, which roughly translates into negative or empty space. Japanese believed that this empty space spurred on creativity while also helping people develop mental clarity and a greater mental awareness.
Similarly, the relatively benign climate of Japan allowed many homes to do without impenetrable walls that blocked off the home from the outside world. Rather, many Japanese homes continue to rely on “shoji” or screens that separate rooms from the outside world. These screens can be removed and are many times transparent enough to allow the natural world to flow into the interior spaces of the homes.
Importance and Benefits of Japanese Furniture
The simplicity and minimalist ethic behind the interior design strategy of the traditional Japanese home brings several mental and physical health benefits to homeowners.
Firstly, an uncluttered interior design strategy focused on minimalist furniture options allows a more efficient use of space. Even in small studio apartments in downtown Tokyo, Japanese futons that can be laid on the floor during the evening and then stored away during the rest of the day allow people living in small homes to maximize the amount of livable space.
Furthermore, the “floor culture” that characterizes Japanese culture also encourages better posture. Proper posture is an essential element for meditation and by either doing without furniture or using furniture that is close to the floor, Japanese people generally tend to mindfully maintain correct posture throughout the different activities of their day.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Japanese furniture options might also be able to help improve mental health. Several important studies have found that one of the causes of an increase in anxiety in western countries is the pressure that our consumer culture imposes to continue to purchase the latest consumer items. A return to a simpler lifestyle with minimalist Japanese furniture as the center of an interior design strategy can help to relieve anxiety and maintain a greater mental clarity.
What to Consider Before Buying Japanese Furniture
If you want to get the full effect of the Japanese minimalist interior design, then you will need to go beyond simply purchasing a futon for a spare bedroom. First and foremost, since Japanese style utilizes the floor area, you will want to invest in some tatami mats that allow for strategic sitting areas around the home.
Furthermore, diffused interior light is also an important part of Japanese interior design. When searching for lamps, light that is diffused through paper will give your home that traditional warm glow that adds to the interior ambiance of simplicity.
For tables and other furniture, the lower is generally the better. If you don’t feel comfortable to eat directly on the floor, a low dining room table might be able to get rid of the need for dining room chairs as some mats or cushions will allow you to eat the traditional way with the added western staple of a dining room table.
Lastly, the use of screens as interior partitions also help to add needed privacy to certain areas of your home without completely closing off certain parts of the home.
Top 14 Best Japanese Furniture Options
Once you have understood the basics of Japanese interior design and the ethics behind it, you are ready to start to furnish your home with low-key but extremely functional Japanese furniture. Any of the 14 pieces of Japanese furniture reviewed below will help you downsize into a more livable home that offers serenity and clarity.
1. Zen´s Bamboo Floor Seat: Instead of opting for a full couch and loveseat for your living room, this floor seat offered by the company Zen´s Bamboo is a functional piece of furniture that offers comfort without taking away from the simplicity of the main room of your home. This chair is also made from 100 percent bamboo which, besides being environmentally friendly, also offers a touch of Japanese authenticity. It´s small size also makes it extremely easy to move from one part of the home to the next.
2. BonVivo Padded Floor Chair: If a floor seat is still too intrusive for your radical minimalist style, the BonVivo padded floor chair is another great option for different areas of your home. This chair can act as a meditation chair, or a simple lounge chair for when you have company. At only 6.6 pounds, it is lightweight enough to move around your home while also being sturdy to offer comfort and support.
3. Zen´s Bamboo Coffee Table: This wonderful little coffee table and matching cushions is the essence of Japanese simplicity. Besides the two comfortable cushions and coffee table made from bamboo, the set also includes a canvas basket that can be used to store dishes for tea time, books, or other materials according to how you plan to use it in your home.
4. Brentwood Home Meditation Pillow: Every Japanese-inspired home needs to have a meditation pillow. Even if you don’t meditate as part of your daily routine, a meditation pillow is a great tool to have in your home as it is a Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) Certified organic cotton inner liner that holds the buckwheat pillow fill. The firm pillow is a great piece of furniture that can be placed in most any room of the home.
5. Matisse Fujian Modern Platform Bed: Japanese style interior decorating goes beyond your living room and dining room. While you could opt for a simple Japanese futon, this modern platform bed mimics Japanese style while offering a bit more permanence. This bed comes with a comfortable queen-sized mattress that sleeps close to the floor.
6. EMOOR Futon: For people who live in homes with a smaller square footage or who simply want the full sense of minimalism that comes with Japanese furniture, this authentic futon is 39 x 83 inches and is only 2.5 inches thick. While it offers a comfortable and firm foundation for a sound night´s rest, it can also be easily folded up and stored away during the day. This makes it easy to keep a multipurpose room of your home uncluttered.
7. LEONC LED Floor Lamp: As we mentioned in the introduction, lighting is an essential aspect of authentic Japanese design. This LED floor lamp has a twisting tower design which adds a touch of modernity to an otherwise authentic Japanese addition to your home. The Dupont decorative shade will help to create an ambiance that furthers the Japanese feel of your home.
8. Best Choice Products Bamboo Rug: Because you will be spending so much time on or near the floor, investing in a couple tatamis, or Japanese rugs, will be essential. These rugs are usually placed in areas around the home where you will spend time sitting, such as underneath your low coffee table and cushion chairs. This simple bamboo rug is 5 feet by 8 feet and is made from 100 percent bamboo. Furthermore, the stain resistant surface makes it easy to clean even after spills.
9. Zendo Foldable Floor Chair: One of the simplest living room designs for a Japanese style home is to simply place a couple foldable chairs on top of a tatami. While you could opt for any type of simple pillow, these floor chairs have a comfortable backing which might be necessary for visitors to your home who aren’t used to sitting on the floor. The stainless steel joints that connect to the backrest can easily support up to 220 pounds of weight making them extremely sturdy as well.
10. Oriental Furniture Zen Shoji Sliding Door Kit: This seven foot tall sliding door kit will allow you to create non-permanent boundaries throughout your home that can offer privacy when needed while also opening up to connect the home between rooms and also with the outside world. This beautiful doors comes with a classic Japanese lattice design and a reinforced pulp paper shade. You can choose from black, honey, natural or rosewood stain wood finishes.
11. Oriental Furniture Desktop Window Pane: If you don’t have the money or space inside your home to put up an interior partition, Oriental Furniture also offers a unique desktop window pane that mimics the traditional Japanese lattice style. Instead of opting for normal blinds, this unique window pane reacts unique with the light and can open up to connect your home to the outside world.
12. Legacy Décor 4 Panel Plum Blossom Screen: The last room divider we recommend is crafted by Legacy Décor. This beautiful and unique room partition offers four authentic rice paper panels that are painted with plum blossom artwork.
13. Still Sitting Nomad Meditation Bench: Your Japanese furniture options don’t have to only stay within the walls of your home. These practical meditation benches made by the company Still Sitting are great outdoor furniture options for a simple deck atmosphere that connects your home to the natural surroundings.
14. J Beauty Tatami Mats: Lastly, you can never have enough Tatami mats for your Japanese-inspired home. These masts come in several sizes and are a comfortable two inches in thickness hat allow you to use these mats for multiple uses in your home.