What Are Japanese Pillows Made Of?

Japanese pillows use different materials than what we typically see in our pillows in the Western world. You may have seen Japanese pillow beads and wondered what they are – these are buckwheat hulls.

The Japanese started using buckwheat hull – also know as Sobakawa, in their bedding materials more than 600 years ago.

If you’re not familiar with buckwheat, it’s not a form of grain as such like we eat. It’s actually a fruit and is related to the rhubarb plant. Weird, right?

Buckwheat has a hard outer shell which is called the ‘hull’. It protects the buckwheat seed, which is the important part of the plant and is used for medical applications, food recipes, healthcare products, bedding, and more.

Traditional Japanese Pillow Buckwheat

Buckwheat Pillow Benefits

Seeing as the Japanese have used buckwheat pillows for centuries and continue to do so today, there must be some pretty good health and wellness benefits – and indeed there are.

Some of the benefits to using a buckwheat pillow include:

Can I Wash My Buckwheat Pillow?

This is where the main drawback comes in with Japanese pillows. You cannot allow the buckwheat to get wet or it damages them. You can wash the outer pillow casing in most instances, always check the labels on the pillow you own to be sure.

If you spill any kind of fluid on your pillow you need to remove all the buckwheat that have become wet and separate them. They are damaged and need to be thrown out. You can buy more to refill the pillow.


Do Japanese Pillows Support All Sleeping Positions?

This is always one of the first questions that comes up, and it’s a good one. You should always find a pillow that suits your sleeping position as perfectly as possible.

Because buckwheat pillows have lots of small hulls in them there is a lot of room for movement. Making it easier to adjust the shape of the pillow to suit your sleeping position.

Having a pillow that doesn’t align well with your neck and head can cause some serious health conditions over time. Like breathing and respiratory issues, spinal misalignment, and neck pain.Japanese pillow traditional

Sleeping on Your Front

It’s never really recommended you sleep on your front, but some people do and it’s the only way they get a good night’s sleep.

The benefit of having a Japanese pillow traditional filling like buckwheat is that you can take out some of the hulls to deflate the pillow and make it take some stress off your neck.

Sleeping on Your Side

Side sleepers typically need a nice thick and responsive pillow, like a high-quality memory foam pillow. Buckwheat pillows do the job pretty well too, they can provide enough support so it’s going to come down to personal preference.

It’s important to follow the contour of your neck and head. Memory form does this really well but retains a lot of heat. If you also suffer from night sweats, medical conditions causing you to be hot, or it’s just hot weather, a Japanese pillow might be a better option.

Sleeping on Your Back

The Japanese neck pillow really comes into its own with back sleepers in my experience. It’s so easy to cause muscle strain in your neck, shoulders, and upper back with a pillow that doesn’t support you properly while sleeping on your back.

Buckwheat is excellent at shuffling around inside the pillow to find a good level and support the lines of your neck and head. Again, it’s a cooler, and for some more comfortable alternative to memory foam.