Dividends: Futon Fever

Usually it is the Japanese who copy and improve American-made products. But some savvy U.S. business people are aiming to beat the Japanese at their own game. They are designing and selling spiffed-up versions of the traditional Japanese futon, or sleeping mat, to none other than eager American shoppers. Traditional Japanese futons are thin, muslin-wrapped cushions. U.S. makers have thickened the cotton stuffing in futons, covered them in designer fabrics and succeeded in promoting the joys of "all-natural sleep."

"My customers say they feel better, walk better, talk better," reports Sally Baker, who owns Chicago's Futon Studio. Boston's Shinera Futon Mattress...

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