About Furoshiki / 風呂敷について


Origin of Furoshiki

Furoshiki is a traditional Japanese wrapping fabric. It has been used since as early as the 8th century for wrapping valuable items for protection, in the Shoso-in Repository of the Imperial House of Japan. At that time, the fabric was called ‘ツツミ’ (= wrap).

There are various theories about the origin of the name ‘Furo-shiki’ (ふろしき/風呂敷).

One theory has it that, in the Nara Period (710–794), a bathroom (= Furo/ふろ/風呂) was constructed in a style similar to a sauna and people spread out (= Shiki/しき/敷) the piece of fabric to sit on while in the steam bath.

There is also another theory. In the feudal period of the 14th century, the then Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, entertained noblemen within a large bathhouse in his residence in Kyoto. The noblemen used Furoshiki to wrap their Kimono in while bathing and would then spread it out as a sheet to stand on, after their bath. To identity their Furoshiki, the fabric often displayed the family crest.

In the Edo Period (1603–1868), pilgrimages became popular and Furoshiki was widely used as a travel bag. In Ukiyo-e woodblock prints, you can see ordinary people carrying Furoshiki in various styles on their way to the shrines and temples.  

As commerce developed, Furoshiki became indispensable as kimonos, medicines, second-hand books, calendars and miscellaneous merchandise were all carried in within.  

Furoshiki printed with a store’s name and trademark served as great publicity and some merchants deliberately put their shop logo on Furoshiki to promote their business when goods were being transported.

During this period when Tokyo was called ‘Edo’, houses would be constructed of wood and often stricken by fire. Consequently, people would lay Furoshiki under the Futon bedding and when disaster struck, would quickly wrap their possessions in Furoshiki and escape.

Even today, many Japanese homes have Furoshiki prepared, in anticipation of a natural disaster.

Japanese Paper - Various Colours and Patterns

Colour and Design

There is a rich variety in the colour and design of Furoshiki. Some Furoshiki are reversible and have patterns on both sides.

Each colour has its own symbolism. For example, warm colours, such as red and yellow, are used for celebrations, including weddings and childbirth. Purple has been regarded as being a noble colour since ancient times and can be used for both celebration and condolence. Green can also be used for both occasions, depending on its shade.

The various designs of Furoshiki can be enjoyed when wrapping different shapes, as well as being spread out to show the whole picture. Some of the popular designs include auspicious animals; birds; insects; flowers; patterns created by nature; landscapes; scenes from classical literatures; Japanese paintings and calligraphy; Ukiyo-e woodblock prints, such as Hokusai’s Big Wave and the oldest work of Manga, dating back to as early as the 12th century.

You can choose Furoshiki according to the season or occasion, to convey your thoughts and feelings.

Size

Furoshiki are available in a wide range of sizes from that of a standard square sofa cushion to a Kingsize bedsheet. Among them, Chu-haba (中巾) approx. 45cm~50cm (17.7inch~19.6inch), Futa-haba (二巾) approx. 68cm~70cm (26.7inch~27.5inch) and Nishi-haba (二四巾) approx. 90cm(35.4inch) are the most common sizes for the purposes of gift wrapping, depending upon the size of the object.

– Chu-haba (中巾)  approx. 45cm~50cm/17.7″~19.6″:
Obento Lunch Box, Bandana, Book Cover, Tissue Box
– Futa-haba (二巾)  approx. 68cm~70cm/26.7″~27.5″:
Single 750ml Bottle, Ring Handled Bag (with Rings)
– Nishi-haba (二四巾)  approx. 90cm/35.4″:
Double Wine Bottles, Single 1,800ml Sake Bottle, Scarf, Tote Bag
– Mi-haba (三巾)  approx. 100cm~104cm/39.3″~40.9″:
Double Wine Bottles, Backpack, Shawl, Nursing Cape
– Yo-haba (四巾)   approx. 128cm/50.3″:
Cushion Cover, Table Cloth, Garment Cover, Picnic Mat

Size of Furoshiki

Material

Furoshiki are made from a variety of materials. Natural fabrics, such as silk and cotton, and synthetic fabrics, such as rayon and polyester, are popular and regenerated fibre, from recycled plastic bottles, are now also being used.

Some materials are delicate and need to be washed and ironed carefully. For example, Silk and Rayon should be dry cleaned only. Washing your Furoshiki correctly will keep it in good condition without becoming damaged, shrinking or losing its colour.

You can enjoy different textures and feelings depending upon the textile. Common types of textiles include Crêpe (ちりめん縮緬), Pongee (つむぎ紬), Shantung (シャンタン) and even Denim (デニム).

Usage

Furoshiki can be used in an infinite number of different ways. It can be used not only to wrap gifts or as a bag or bottle carrier for transporting everyday items, but also as a scarf, headwrap, bandana, shawl, stole or throw to keep you warm. Equally, it may be used as a tapestry, play mat or as a side table mat, table cloth to decorate your room, or even as a picnic rug, blanket, or cycling bag for leisure.

In Japan, it is regarded as a highly useful accessory in the event of a natural disaster. You can use it as a triangular bandage, or as a safety hood, or as a face mask. If it is made of a fabric with water repellent coating, it can be used to protect against the rain or even used as a bucket to carry water. 

It is extremely lightweight and folds easily and can be carried on you like a handkerchief.

Obento wrapped in a pink Furoshiki

Furoshiki can be handed over to your loved ones or handed down the family as an heirloom. It is extremely durable and increases in charm with age. It is the perfect way to share your eco-conscious spirit.

Furoshiki (ふろしき/風呂敷) embraces the Japanese philosophy of simplicityutility with beauty.

We source our carefully selected Goods from Japan. All wrapping fabrics are made in Japan.