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Furoshiki: go Japanese this Christmas

Learn about the Furoshiki, an ancient tradition of wrapping objects in a special piece of cloth in Japan.

By Anna Purpurpurpur

Furoshiki is an ancient tradition of wrapping objects in a special piece of cloth in Japan. I was very excited to learn about it from the best conosseurs: Tomoko Kakita, a Japanese interior architect and furoshiki expert who recently launched Ma Space Design project, held the workshop on furoshiki at the Pantechnicon where I was lucky to be invited. She cherishes the tradition herself introducing this technique into everyday life as a sustainable way of gift giving. Moreover, she had her kind of corona baby during the lockdown: it’s a wonderful and very rich in explanations book on Furoshiki!

Let’s explore a bit more about this tradition – and maybe you’ll decide to use those techniques for wrapping presents this Christmas or introduce more eco-friendly habits into your everyday routine!

A history of furoshiki

Furoshiki has been used in Japan for centuries. The initial name of the wrap was tsutsumi and the Japanese character for that could be seen as a pregnant woman symbolizing that as woman carries a precious baby inside, the wrap carries a precious object. Then this method was applied to a technique of wrapping the items in temples during the Nara Period. Later it became used as a expensive wrapping for one’s belongings for the bath visits. A piece of square cloth was made out of linen or silk and kept on the cedar wood with other treasured items such as an expensive kimono. 

General public got access to it in the 17th century (Ego period) and started using it for wrapping and carrying everyday objects, and furoshiki started being made out of cotton. You can see many pieces of art like ukiyo or old photos featuring it. It was an essential part of life, and furoshiki was basically a substitute to the carrier bags.

Later, in 70s, the western influences made furoshiki almost disappear, now it’s usually used only for the special occasions and during special ceremonies for instance weddings or funerals. But it’s a wonderful way of wrapping the gifts and everyday objects and a great alternative to wrapping paper so I hope it’ll make its way back to the wider public!

The secrets of furoshiki 

Although it might seem complicated, the reality is that wrapping objects in furoshiki is quite straightforward if you master a few basic techniques such as a square knot. During the workshop we practiced a few ways of wrapping a bottle and a square object – see the videos from Tomoko’s book below!

Insight: traditionally furoshiki is supposed to be returned to the owner to be reused. This makes it a perfectly sustainable way of wrapping instead of single use paper.

You can use any square scarf or piece of cloth for furoshiki but if you’d like to use the original Japanese ones, go and check the Pantechnicon’s LINK collection!

Hope you enjoyed my today’s blog!

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