What is Furoshiki: Culture of Japanese Wrapping Cloth

What is Furoshiki: Culture of Japanese Wrapping Cloth

Furoshiki, a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth, is a piece of art and history woven together. The name, translating to "bath (Furo) spread (Shiki)," originates from the Edo period(1603-1868) in Japan when the cloth was used to bundle clothes while at the public baths. Over time, it evolved from a practical item to a versatile and artistic tool.

Cultural significance and traditional uses of Furoshiki

In Japan, the Furoshiki holds a significant cultural value, hailing as a symbol of care, respect, and etiquette. People would skillfully wrap their goods in Furoshiki, thus reducing the need for bags and promoting eco-friendliness. The art of wrapping in Furoshiki was also seen as a reflection of a person's sophistication and manners. Moreover, it was often used in gift-giving, its unique folds and knots adding a personal touch, making the act of giving and receiving more heartfelt. From a utilitarian object, it has evolved into a cherished cultural icon, underpinning the Japanese principles of Mottainai (the philosophy of waste reduction) and Omotenashi (the spirit of selfless hospitality). So, it is not just a piece of cloth but an embodiment of Japanese history, culture, and values.

Ukiyoe ladies using furoshiki

Left: Ukiyoe of a woman wearing a traditional Japanese hand towel (Tenugui)with a striped Furoshiki wrapping cloth in her right hand, painted in 1818 by Utagawa Toyokuni.
Right: Ukiyoe of a woman carrying a light yellow wrapped Furoshiki on her shoulder, painted by Utagawa Toyokuni in 1819. (Source: Waseda University Cultural Resource Database)

Contemporary uses of Furoshiki

In recent times, with the growing global awareness about sustainability and eco-consciousness, Furoshiki has regained its popularity. Its traditional uses have expanded to include various modern applications like grocery shopping, carrying lunchboxes or bottles, and even as a fashion accessory. Furoshiki bags have become a trendy alternative to plastic bags, promoting sustainable living. Many businesses now offer Furoshiki wraps as an eco-friendly packaging option for their products. Moreover, the art of Furoshiki wrapping has been widely adopted in schools and workshops worldwide as a fun way to promote sustainable practices and creativity.

Furoshiki Bagu

Furoshiki of 70~100 cm square are easy to make shopping bags.

Water-repellent Art Furoshiki (Tree House)100 x 100cm

Furoshiki in pop culture

The cultural significance of Furoshiki has also been reflected in popular media and entertainment. Japanese literature, poetry, and art often feature Furoshiki as a symbol of traditional values and aesthetics. In the world of fashion, designers have incorporated Furoshiki-inspired designs in their collections, giving it a modern and chic twist. And with the rise of social media, Furoshiki has gained popularity as an Instagram-worthy accessory and a way to showcase one's creativity.

Tokyo Yamanote Furoshiki

This contemporary art Froshiki"Tokyo manga" give a modern edge to the traditional furoshiki, and look stunning as a scarf, a bag or a wall art,inspired by Tokyo Yamanote train line.

Handmade Art Furoshiki "Tokyo Manga"

Global impact of Furoshiki

With its versatile uses and eco-friendly nature, Furoshiki has gained attention not just in Japan but worldwide. It has become a symbol of sustainable living, promoting the use of reusable materials and reducing plastic waste. The Japanese government has also recognized the cultural significance and potential economic impact of Furoshiki and designated October 22nd as "Furoshiki Day".

How to Wrap Furoshiki

Simple Square Wrap Technique

The square wrap technique is one of the simplest methods of using furoshiki, and it's perfect for wrapping boxed gifts or books. To use this technique, simply place the item in the middle of a square furoshiki cloth and gather up the corners. Then tie them together in a secure knot, and voila - your gift is beautifully wrapped! You can also add an extra touch by tying a ribbon or twine around the knot for decoration.

  • 1:Spread the furoshiki inside out and place the box in the center.
  • 2:Cover the corner of "d" over the box.
  • 3:Cover the opposite "a" corner on the box in the same way.
  • 4:Bring "b" and "c" together along the sides of the box while keeping the corners of the box neatly aligned.
  • 5:Tie "b" and "c" into "Ma-musubi" knot and place the corner of "c" under the box to finish.

Take a look at this article to learn more about the meaning of Furoshiki Knot.

Bottle Wrap Technique

Another common use of furoshiki is to wrap bottles, making it an elegant and sustainable alternative to traditional paper or plastic bags. To wrap a bottle with furoshiki, start by placing the bottle diagonally in the center of the cloth. Take one corner and fold it over the bottle, then repeat with the opposite corner. Next, bring the left and right corners together at the top of the bottle and tie them in a knot. You can also tuck in any excess fabric to create a more secure and tidy wrap. This technique not only looks beautiful but also helps to protect the bottle while transporting it.



If you want to learn more about how to wrap Furoshiki, please check out this Furoshiki Handbook that introduces many ways to wrap Furoshiki!

Everyday Uses of Furoshiki

Aside from gift wrapping, there are many other practical uses for furoshiki in everyday life. For example, you can use it as a tote bag by tying the corners together and using the long handles to carry items. You can also use it as a scarf, tablecloth, or even as a decorative wall hanging. The versatility of furoshiki makes it a valuable addition to any household, reducing waste and providing functional solutions for various needs.

Eco friendly Life Learning from Old Culture

By incorporating furoshiki into our lives, we can reduce waste and add a touch of elegance to our daily routines. So the next time you have a gift or item to transport, consider using Furoshiki instead of disposable packaging. Join the Furoshiki movement and make a positive impact on the environment while embracing a beautiful cultural tradition. So let's get creative and wrap with love! Happy wrapping!

Our picks for new Furoshiki users

Furoshiki Handbook

Furoshiki (70x70xm) with Ring Handles


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