Why Japanese couples prefer to sleep separate?

November 13, 2014 Juju Kurihara Culture, Lifestyle Tags: 6 Comments

kateinai bekkyo1There was a discussion in the internet about Japanese couples. They are wondering why Japanese married couples sleep in separate rooms despite of small housing space in Japan.

Actually I haven´t seen many bedrooms of married people in Japan. When I think about my parents, they sleep in the same room but in different beds. Yes, there are two single beds in their room and some space in between just like this photo. 






When I was small, my parents had different rooms. My mum´s room was the back of the house and she had a double size bed while my father´s room was next to mine and at the front part of the house. He didn´t have a bed but a kotatsu where I usually watched films. In the night it turned to his sleeping place. About 10 years he slept in kotatsu. 

As a child I thought my parents didn´t love each other. But later I understood that they had very different lifestyle. My mum was back then working always night shift and would wake up in the middle of the night to pick my mother up from the station where was about a half an hour drive. Then he would wake up 6:30 in the morning to wake me up and make me breakfast. 


The site above says "many" Japanese couples sleep in separate rooms but what I´ve found in Japanese website is 80% of couples sleep in the same room. According to the study of the University of Toronto, about 30-40% of couple sleep separately. That´s more than Japan. In the 2013 study by the National Sleep Foundation (I´m surprised such foundation exists), only 9% of married British couples sleep in separate rooms while 28% of Japanese couple do. Still, it´s not so many. 



However it seems to be true that many Japanese couples sleep in separate beds. 

The couples with a small child, it´s quite common the child sleep with the parents (mostly with mum). When I was little, we lived in a one bedroom flat. We had a massive bed (for a 3-year-old) and we slept all together. I didn´t have my own room until I started the primary school and always slept with my parents.

To let the husband rest well, it also works to have separate beds and the child sleeps with the mother. 



meoto futon

Why Japanese married couple sleep in separate beds?

This is my opinion but what I think is, Japanese people have been sleeping in futon for centuries. In Heian period (平安時代/ 794-1192) tatami was invented and since then sleeping on futon became common until Meiji revolution (明治維新/ Meiji Ishin) when beds were introduced. Then after the WII, beds became more common for normal houses. 

Futon is usually made for one person. Until recent, I haven´t seen a double or queen size futon. So even a married couple, they have separate futons. Depending on the intimacy, the space between the futon can be closer or farther. You could squeeze into your partner´s futon but then a half of your body will be out of the duvet and you will get cold. In the reality, it´s not so comfortable. 


One reason for Japanese couples prefer to sleep separate could be this. It´s just a custom for Japanese to sleep in the individual bed. Even in Europe, until the late 19th Century couples were sleeping separately and in the 20th Century, sleeping in the same bed has become a standard style. See? It´s not only in Japan. 


love loveAnd according to many studies, sleeping in separate beds gives you better sleep. Your boyfriend may move a lot during the night or snore loud. Or your girlfriend always gets the duvet and you wake up constantly because you are cold. In these cases, you are not having a good sleep and you are always tired. Or perhaps you are an early bird but your partner is a night person. If you have separate beds, both of you don´t have to disturb other person´s sleep by getting in and out of the bed. Now I see that my parents have a completely different time cycle and having their own bed must have been working all this time. 


separate bed

Sleeping in separate rooms can be what is called Kateinai Bekkyo (家庭内別居), divorce inside the house. Although the marriage is over, for some reasons the couple keeps living together. A woman says, "We have just become flatmates, just two people living in the same house". 

One day, in the classroom, a friend told me about her parents planning to get separate but had decided to live together until her brother then 15 years old to graduate high school. I understand them. Children with one parent can get teased at school in Japan. When I was at school it was a taboo to ask the classmates why they had a single parent. The parents would low their voice when they talked about the kid with a single mother. So as a child, we had learnt we shouldn´t have asked about it. 


These couples, although they are practically separated, they need to live together. In this case, they own separate rooms and sleep separately. Also this has become a little more common among elder couples. My father´s generation was the generation who brought Japan as it is now. They were encouraged to work, work and work. They were married but the men have been home to communicate with their family. Then the retirement comes. The family doesn´t know what to do with this man, the father or the husband. Kateinai Bekkyo after the retirement has become common as well as the actual divorce. 


sleep separate


There are many reasons for the couples to sleep in separate beds or rooms. But the daughter of this family says, "My parents sleep in different room, watch the same TV program and laugh at the very same moment". 

You can never tell what is the happiest marriage. 




Oh by the way, I´ve found there are now a family size futon. According to the size of the family, you can extend the matt by adding the piece. So now, the mother doesn´t have to squeeze herself in a single futon but all of them have enough time to sleep together. 

 Futon becomes bigger than the room? That´s a problem you need to solve. 



Subscribe for Newsletter? : HERE


More about Japanese family

How do you say my wife in Japanese

Women agenda

Japanese mums and obento

Iyashi-kei girl

Call her name

Herbivorous Japanese boys



  1. Rivershield 5 years Reply

    As a latin american, this lifestyle seems way too cold for me, both in fugurative and literal sense.
    Here we don’t have cold eather in most places, so nobody nobody worries about being cold during sleep, on the contrary, feeling hot is more of a problem. So, in other words, if couples would get to sleep separated here it would be because it’s too hot to share a bad with another person giving the human natural body warmth.
    Anyway, unlike japanese culture that is somehow shy and quiet, our culture is very loud and we express our feelings specialy through physical contact. So if a husband does not sleep with his wife, she will most likely understand he doesn’t love her, and vice versa, and society will think the same. This, such an act would never be socialy acceptable. Couples must endure anything in order to be togheter.
    Lastly, the idea of being divorced and still living in the same house is really confusing for me. In my country there’s no such a thing. Divorce itself is seem as something only miserable and irresponsible people do, since the vows are suppose to last until death. For that reason, many couples prefer not to make vows during marriage, that way they can get divorced in the future.

  2. Lynn 7 years Reply

    Studies show that more and more American couples are sleeping separately, too. Even more, they show that American couples have commonly slept separately for the majority of American history, but often lie about it because they are worried what others will think. This causes public perceptions to be skewed.

    Something like 40% of new homes in America are being built these days with dual master bedrooms. Studies show that sleeping separately improves quality of sleep and can even save failing marriages. About the only reason that couples sleep together all the time is they think they are supposed to, but there is actually nothing at all wrong with sleeping apart.

  3. japani oil 7 years Reply

    I am very happy to read your articles it’s very useful for me, 
    and I am completely satisfied with your website. 
    All comments and articles are very useful and very good.
    Your blog is very attention-grabbing. I am loving all of the in.
    turn you are sharing with each one!….

  4. Doug 7 years Reply

    Japanese are always making excuses. these are not good reasons.

  5. YukiO 8 years Reply

    I might need more information on where to buy the family size futon.

  6. Nonegiven 8 years Reply

    I think you miss two issues that are closely related.

    Firstly, it is mostly so hot and humid in Japan that is it actually uncomfortable to sleep close to someone else for at least 8 months of the year!

    Secondly, due to sweat and that humid, futons have to be aired regularly, possibly daily. Even in Winter. (They are also generally stored away each day too, rooms are multi-purpose).

    A double sized futon would very difficult to impossible to “womanhandle”.

    So there are practical reasons involved.

    Double sized futons developed in the West where the climate is much cooler and drier and they generally come on pallet like wooden bases which allow them to air.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *