I probably slept on my first futon in Uzbekistan on the trip with my uncle in the early 90s. Then, sometime in '97 or '98, either on the way to Uzbekistan or on the return, I stayed in New York City with my cousin and her husband in their tiny apartment. Incidentally, it was my first visit ever to The Big Apple. I remember my cousin calling and asking a friend across "town" if she could borrow a futon so that I could have a place to sleep - in the office, if I remember correctly. We ended up riding in a yellow cab to pick it up. Until then, I didn't know the actual word FUTON. To me, it was a simply a rolled up mattress (for the floor). Since then, the futon has played a bigger role in my life. Slept on one in various parts of Asia, including Thailand. But one experience was by far my favorite: On a trip to Japan that Kade and I made in 2004, we visited our friend Kana. And at her home, where we spent several nights, we experienced the "quality futon experience." Something like this.
In Asheville, not long ago, we bought a queen-size futon, just to bring out on special occasions or if guests visit. We ordered it from a company in the US that specializes in handcrafting Japanese style futon sleeping mats. I was very excited when it arrived at our door!