Furoshiki, a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth, has a history that spans a history of over 1200 years. While the use of it has evolved over the course of Japanese history, many of the original defining principles of its tradition are still being continued to this day.
Furoshiki is most often used as way to wrap gifts
Furoshiki has a long tradition of being used as a decorative and personalized wrapping cloth. To this day, it is often used as a gift wrapping that can bestow your gifts with a more personal touch than simply using a disposable bag or wrapping paper. In addition, many people around the world, as well as in Japan, are becoming ever-more conscious of the amount of waste they produce on a day-to-do basis. Furoshiki are fantastic to use because they can be openly exchanged with friends and family, and easily reused upon giving gifts to another person. It is also a special way to wrap gifts, because the person receiving the gift not only receives the contents of the furoshiki, but also the furoshiki itself as well, which is a great way to carry the gift until they arrive home. Furoshiki continues to remain popular as a way to inject a bit more personality into gift exchanges.
The benefits of using Furoshiki as a form of wrapping
Furoshiki incorporate a portable design and versatility while incorporating unique and visually pleasing designs. There are many different ways to style and use furoshiki, making them useful in a wide number of different situations. For example, furoshiki are often used today as a wrapping cloth, resizable pouch, a fashionable scarf or headband, or even as a table cloth. The range of different applications and unique designs, as well as various folding methods make furoshiki as fun and creative as they are practical.
As an artform furuoshiki has become popular around the world, and has a rich and long history
The history of Furoshiki
First used during Japan’s Nara period (710 to 794) , furoshiki cloths were originally called tsutumi (lit. wrapping). Tsutumi were primarily used to protect precious objects at temple’s. During the proceeding Heian Period (794 to 1185) this type of wrapping tsutumi cloth began to be known as koromo utsumi where this type of cloth began to be used primarily to wrap clothes. During Japan’s Muromachi period (1336-1573) a shogun named Ashikaga Yoshimitsu is thought to have installed a bathhouse in his personal residence. Following this feudal lords would begin to visit this bathhouse. Visitors to this bathhouse would begin what we become known as a a furoshiki (which literally means “bath spread”) during their visit.
The origins of furoshiki, and how “bath spread” cloths began to be used
Let’s look at the meaning behind the word furoshiki.
A furo (風呂) is a Japanese steam bath, while shiki (敷) means to “spread out”. In the above paragraph I mentioned how the shogun Ashikaya Yoshimitsu began inviting feudal lords to his newly constructed bathhouse. Upon visiting, these feudal lords would wrap their clothes in cloths that dawned in their own personal family crests (also known as a mon (紋)) in Japanese. This would ensure that their clothes wouldn’t get mixed up with the other guests . Upon exiting the bath, this same cloth would then be used for wiping their feet, and also to stand on while getting dressing. This would be the beginning of the multiple different applications we can still see in modern furoshiki use to this day.
How furoshiki is used in modern Japan
To this day furoshiki is still commonly used as a way to wrap gifts and personal items. To provide an added layer of personal touch, the use of a furoshiki can add an a layer of design to any special items.
Furoshiki as wrapping
The tradition of using furoshiki as a fashionable and versatile means of wrapping something is still common to see to this day in Japan.
Typical way of gift wrapping
This is a basic wrapping of gifts. Unlike disposable wrapping paper, the receiver of the gift could enjoy using the beautiful furoshiki as long as it lasts.
This is more elaborate way of wrapping gifts. By attaching some ornaments to the knot, it becomes more personal and creative.
Wine bottle wrapping
Bottle of wine or sake is a perfect gift for visiting your family and friends. To make it more chic and attractive, wrap it in furoshiki to present an expression of gratitude.
Furoshiki as a bag
As a response to continued awareness towards global warming environmental risks, many people in Japan have chosen to use furoshiki as a reusable replacement to plastic bags. In early 2020 the Japanese government began requiring all shops to begin charging for plastic bags. This change in policy has invigorated the reusable bag market, which has in turn resulted in an increased level of interest in furoshiki. Many people use a furoshiki to carry their daily lunch to school or work, or as a bag to carry groceries home from the supermarket. Just like how furoshiki traditionally had a dual-purpose as both a wrapping cloth and bath spread, many people will use furoshiki both as bag until arriving at their destination where they may use the furoshiki as a spreadable tablecloth or mat.
Furoshiki as fashion
Furoshiki’s unique designs also make them a versatile choice to use as a scarf or headband. There are many different ways to tie a furoshiki to achieve different aesthetics. Experimenting with different patterns and knots can make furoshiki a flexible addition to your wardrobe.
Furoshiki as tapestry
Furoshiki can also be used as a decorative tapestry to accentuate your interior design. This is typically done by handing a furoshiki from a hanging rod, which will then be hung in an area of your home or apartment.
Furoshiki can be incredibly diverse in both their overall design and function. With a rich history of multipurpose use and tradition, the use of it may be becoming more relevant to modern Japanese society than ever before as world tries to shift to a lifestyle more focused on green living and the use of reusables. We hope that through reading this article you will have gained more insight on how you may use Japanese furoshiki to create a more personal touch through the various different ways to use.
Where to Buy Foroshiki?
You can also see a practical guide on how to tie and use various furoshiki at this link.