Japanese Gift-Wrapping and Furoshiki
It's NOT Just Inside That Counts
When it comes to Japanese gifts, it's not the inside that really counts. Gift-wrapping, called tsutsumi, is the most important part of the gift-giving it seems. How you wrap and tie the package is considered especially symbolic and carries a lot of expression about how you feels towards the person and the gesture of giving them a gift.
The wrapping around the gift is seen as being part of the entire gift experience, with the opening and revealing of the contents viewed as one complete experience. In Western culture, gift-wrapping seems mostly just meant to conceal the gift, with unwrapping often being very perfunctory or even crude. Japanese gifts are aestheic and beautiful on the outside, with the same full expression of the culture's love of balance, nature, novelty and simplicty.
The root of the word tsutsumi is the word that means "to refrain" meaning to be discreet or moderate. Simple but gorgeous paper wrapping, tied with gentle natural fibers or thin ribbons make a bold but beautiful understatement when compared to the flashy papers and big bows found in American forms of wrapping.
Simple Wrap and Tie
Wrapping How-To Guides
- How To Do Japanese Gift-Wrapping
Japanese-style gift-wrapping, called tsutsumi, uses paper and cloth to create simple but elegant wrappings for gifts, presents and packages. Furoshiki refers to using a large piece of cloth for the wrapping. These techniques are perfect for birthdays
- Wrap Artist (washingtonpost.com)
Akiko Keene, 62, Japanese gift wrapper Sunday, December 5, 2004
- In Japan, it's the wrap that counts
While many Japanese wrapping techniques are as intricate as origami (and require similarly complicated diagrams to puzzle through), others can be managed easily.
- Japanese Style Gift Wrapping
Japanese-style gift wrapping for gifts such as a Birthday, Father's Day and Wedding gift, etc.
- Japanese Gift Wrapping: All About The Folding Arts
The practice of so called origata, or a bit longer carefully wrapping gifts in decorative paper, is actually an ancient habit that dates back several hundreds of years and has been perfected to quite a level since then.
Visit a famous Furoshiki store in Kyoto
The History of Furoshiki
One type of wrapping that is uniquely Japanese is the furoshiki. The word itself translates as "bath spread" and is a large piece of cloth that was originally used to carry your clean clothing and bath items to the public bath house. Usage expanded to carrying groceries and other small shopping purchases. Eventually the furoshiki was used for wrapping and transporting wares to market, and in modern times is also employed as a way to wrap and give gifts.
Furoshiki can be made of just about any kind of fabric (cotton, silk, rayon or nylon) and there is no standard size. You get or make your furoshiki as large as you need it to be for whatever you are wrapping and carrying. There are dozens of methods for tying a furoshiki, most of which turn some part of the fabric into a convenient handle for the person doing the carrying.
After World War II, the modern plastic bag began to replace traditional methods of carrying purchases. However with environmental concerns on the rise, using a furoshiki has come back into fashion as it is reusable and eliminates trash.
- In Focus: How to use "Furoshiki" [MOE]
The Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan has a guide (PDF) on using cloth as opposed to paper for wrapping gifts to cut down on the wasted paper usually used in gift wrap
- A quick how-to: The furoshiki purse-tie
Just right for tying up bento box lunches.
- Furoshiki - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Furoshiki are a type of traditional Japanese wrapping cloth that were frequently used to transport clothes, gifts, or other goods.
See how to tie a Furoshiki
Make Your Own Furoshiki
It's a lot easier to make your own furoshiki than you think! Really, it can be just about any square or rectangle of cloth. Using a print makes it look much more traditional than using a plain color.
Sew your own - If you are handy with a sewing machine, it's easy to get the right size piece of fabric you need and hem it yourself. You can try your local fabric store, or if you are on a really tight budget, look for fabrics at thrift stores. You never know what you might find that works beautifully.
Find things that work at thrift stores - One of the most common sizes for a furoshiki is about 17" square, which is approximately the same size as the modern Western men's handkerchief. Ladies scarves are also good recycled as a furoshiki. Both of these items can be hunted down for very low-costs at your local thrift stores.
History of Tsutsumi
- The Art of Japanese Gift-Giving
The Japanese love to give gifts. This habit is not practiced only on special occasions, but it's widely accepted as giri - a social duty and obligation.
- International Gift-Giving Protocol - Japan
To the Japanese, gift giving is a way of communicating respect, friendship, and appreciation.
- Just so - the art of Japanese gift wrapping
For the Japanese, the wrapping is almost as important as the gift it contains. Here are tips to emulate this Far Eastern paper art.