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Furoshiki, or how to sustainably wrap everything!

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

furoshiki japan gift wrapping
Photo Credit: イメージ うめと和菓子 IFJ Tradings

Did you know that Japanese arts emerged from something that was first intended for practical uses? Just like Japanese calligraphy which solved the problem of various ununified scripts in the administrative process or Kintsugi, which initially aimed to simply extend the life of a plate, bowl, or cup, the crafty nation developed the art of Furoshiki out of a need to use fabric to transport and wrap products. From being purely a means to an end that is efficient and cheap emerged an art form in and of itself, that remains the most environmentally-friendly way to package gifts for all occasions. It is commonly used by Japanese schoolchildren to carry bento boxes and now popular worldwide, the web teems with tutorials on how to wrap anything from wine bottles and soap hampers to books or making backpacks! Your turn to adopt and carry barePack 😉?

LUSH displaying its annual seasonal Furoshiki
Photo credit: LUSH displaying its annual seasonal Furoshiki

So what is Furokishi?

Both a noun and a verb, Furoshiki is a square piece of fabric and the art of using it to wrap gifts, clothes, decorations, and just about anything that fits. Given its intended use as part of a gift and as is expected of anything Japanese, the cloth itself is typically beautifully designed with elegant patterns and comes in a variety of colours and materials. Now popular worldwide and especially with the rise of sustainable products, furoshiki cloths provide an alternative new way of gift-giving. The most common sizes are 45 x 45 cm and 70 x70 cm but as long as the cloth is square, anything goes today in terms of size, colour, thickness, and material fibre.

Why do we love using a furoshiki?

1) ✂️ no need for scissors, tape, or glue. In fact, just the furoshiki and you're good to go

2) 🎀 it's something too pretty to throw away unlike pretty wrapping paper, so it's naturally going to be reused. Washable and versatile, it serves many purposes beyond gift-giving.

3) 🙌 fail-proof, you simply cannot mess up. Perfect for those who just never seem to cut the right paper size or take 10 folds to get it right

4) 😋 perfect for carrying your barePack FlexBox!

A Super Brief History of the Craft of Furoshiki

When? Nara period (710-794)

What? tsutsumi = “package” or “present.”

Why? primarily used to store important goods and treasures found in Japanese temples.


When? Heian period (794-1185) and after

What? koromo utsumi = "clothing" package and then hira zutsumi = "flat" and "head" or "Wrapping without a Knot"

Why? cloth mostly used to wrap clothing

Then finally....

When? Muromachi period (1336-1573)

What? furoshiki = "bath" and "spread" (bet you didn't expect that)

Why? used during bathing. Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, who was a Shogun in this era, installed a large bathhouse in the residence that he had built in Kyoto, and he often invited feudal lords from the entire country to come to his residence. At this time, furoshiki that contained kimono displayed the family crest so that its contents could not be mistaken for someone else’s. It is also is said that bathers dried, socialized and dressed while standing on such cloths after taking a bath acting as bath mats, hence the name.

How to Tie Furoshiki

In 2006 Japanese Minister of the Environment, Ms Yuriko Koike created the "Mottainai Furoshiki" as a symbol of Japanese culture to reduce waste, made from recycled polyester, which she presented at the Senior Officials Meeting on the 3R Initiative held in Tokyo, Japan on March 6-8 advocating furoshiki's ability to reduce household waste from plastic bags. In Minister Koike's own words;

I've created what you might call a "mottainai furoshiki". The Japanese word mottainai means it's a shame for something to go to waste without having made use of its potential in full. The furoshiki is made of a fiber manufactured from recycled PET bottles, and has a birds-and-flowers motif drawn by Itoh Jakuchu, a painter of the mid-Edo era.

Ensuing, a simple and useful guide for the various applications of the furoshiki was published on the Ministry website with 14 ways to wrap a furoshiki. We grabbed these step-by-step guides from

And we will end on this quote from Minister Koike:

The furoshiki is so handy that you can wrap almost anything in it regardless of size or shape with a little ingenuity by simply folding it in a right way. It's much better than Plastic bags you receive at supermarkets or wrapping paper, since it's highly resistant, reusable and multipurpose. In fact, it's one of the symbols of traditional Japanese culture, and puts an accent on taking care of things and avoiding wastes. It would be wonderful if the furoshiki, as a symbol of traditional Japanese culture, could provide an opportunity for us to reconsider the possibilities of a sound-material cycle society. As my sincere wish, I would like to disseminate the culture of the furoshiki to the entire world.

#gift-giving #christmas #sustainablegifts #furoshiki #festive #tips Sources: The Kyoto Project | Invaluable | Japanese Ministry of the Environment

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