What is Furoshiki?

Although I use Furoshiki predominantly as a method of wrapping gifts, this is not the purpose for which it was originally intended! Did you know that Furoshiki wraps have existed and been used in Japan for centuries? 

Wrapping with fabric was thought to have originated during the Nara period in Japan (AD 710-794 in case you’re interested!) when material was used to wrap imperial treasures and protect them during storage. However the word “Furoshiki” came later as a word used to describe fabric used at communal bath houses. People would take a piece of fabric either as a mat to stand on, during dressing, or once clothing was removed each individual would bundle up their belongings within the fabric to save them becoming mixed up with others.  Hence the literal translation of Furoshiki: Furo – Bathing, Shiki – Spread…. “Bath-Spread”! 

Artist – Torii Kiyonaga

From that time on it was a traditional way to carry or wrap belongings (and gifts!) However with more modern times and the invention of plastic bags, the use of Furoshiki began to waver within Japan. In 2006 the Minister for the Environment, Ms Yuriko Koike, designed and presented a new Furoshiki wrap, the fibre of which was made from recycled PET bottles. She also expressed her desire for the tradition of Furoshiki to be used once again in Japan in favour of plastic bags. You can read about it here!

 “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.” Ms Yuriko Koike – Minister for the Environment (Japan) 2003-2006

I am personally so grateful that her wish is for this beautiful piece of Japanese culture should be spread far and wide. I also recognise that the single use way of life that our world has grown so used to is not a sustainable or environmentally friendly way of living. Perhaps by making small changes such as embracing traditional wrapping and carrying methods, we can all work towards improving our world for the better.