The Beginner’s Guide to the Japanese Art of Furoshiki


via NHK World.

Who needs a crummy plastic bag when you can carry just about anything with an attractive piece of cloth? Enter the art of Furoshiki, or the traditional Japanese wrapping cloth that’s been used to transport and wrap items for over a thousand years.

The word furoshiki (風呂敷) refers to the craft in addition to the cloth itself, which is usually decorated with a colorful design. It roughly translates to “bath (furo) spread (shiki)” because the cloths were originally used to carry items to the public bath house and then used as a kind of bath mat. Nowadays, it’s just a clever way to wrap up and carry bottles, food, gifts, and other items.


via NHK World and the National Diet Library.

I was first drawn to the art while I was doing some research on Japan for a forthcoming trip (I’m one of those people who obsessively researches the places I visit). In this video I came across from NHK World, an instructor demonstrates—about 24 minutes in—how to quickly tie a bottle carrier for wine, sake, or liquor (pictured at the top). After seeing that, I wondered what else you could make. Turns out, quite a lot.

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Like beautifully wrapped gifts!

Why waste wrapping paper when you can wrap a gift nicely with just a few quick knots. It looks great and you can either give the recipient the furoshiki as a bonus gift, or just ask for it back so you can use it again.

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How about a nice way to wrap your takeout lunch or bento box?

Maybe you’d rather have a fancy handle to make carrying your lunch a little easier:

Or perhaps you just want to tie an all-purpose handbag or shoulder bag for carrying your various day-to-day items:

What do you need to get started? Well, all you need is a furoshiki, of course! If you can get to Japan and find a handmade furoshiki dealer, do so. But if not, you can find some decent options that cost about $10 apiece with a quick search on Amazon (many are Prime eligible). If you want to make your own, or would rather use some cloth you have lying around the house, just be sure the fabric is large enough to use and looks good on both sides. The most common furoshiki sizes are around 17 to 18 inches (45 cm) and 27 to 28 inches (72 cm). Now get tying!

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