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Japanese Gift-Wrapping and Furoshiki

Updated on August 31, 2014

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

Your basic package wrap done with a cloth furoshiki.
Your basic package wrap done with a cloth furoshiki. | Source

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.

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.

The Wrap Up - comments and feedback

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    • relache profile image

      Raye 3 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Cloth wrapping around the world is very similar.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      their wrapping style reminds me of Wallace and gromit. Gromit wrap up his bundle like that when he left home.

    • ilikegames profile image

      Sarah Forester 4 years ago from Australia

      This looks really interesting and cool!

    • bridalletter profile image

      Brenda Kyle 5 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Very lovely. Always glad to see a reusable gift wrapping.

    • SilkThimble profile image

      SilkThimble 6 years ago from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

      Some very good information and useful resources.

    • HikeGuy profile image

      Bryce 6 years ago from Northern California Coast

      Lovely. I enjoyed your background and suggestions. This also cuts down on waste from disposable gift wrap.

    • catherinenbrooks profile image

      Catherine Brooks 6 years ago from Santa Rosa, CA

      Wow....Superb.....I like it....thanks

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 7 years ago from Georgia

      Wow! That was a great how to. I have a birthday gift to wrap and I love different ways to wrap gifts I present. I will wrap Japanese style today. Thanks so much.

    • profile image

      anjali 7 years ago

      this so cool. the idea is so great

    • tpneversaynever profile image

      tpneversaynever 7 years ago from California

      Beautiful. I'm very inspired to try this. Thank you!

    • vandell profile image

      vandell 7 years ago

      Wow! Thumbs up

    • deblipp profile image

      deblipp 7 years ago

      Excellent hub!!!!

      The hub which is projected towards presenting the gift is simple fabulous. It is true that, 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. Thanks for sharing such a valuable peace of text.

    • profile image

      adair_francesca 7 years ago

      Great hub. I consider gift wrapping as an art. The designs and the wrapping materials used are wonderful, it adds some beauty as well as increases the excitement of the person who will receive the gift.

    • Kristine B profile image

      Kristine B 7 years ago

      How fun!

    • profile image

      bletchen 7 years ago from uk

      These are really cool. I used to do a bit of origami as a kid, and japanese art has a certain something about it - it's always very intricate and you can see the time that's been put into it - nice hub by the way :-)

    • HolyLandGifts profile image

      HolyLandGifts 7 years ago from Vancouver

      very cool :D going to try next holiday :)

    • CarolMerc profile image

      CarolMerc 7 years ago from LA

      Looks great! Nice inspiration.

    • KristenBrockmeyer profile image

      KristenBrockmeyer 7 years ago from Augusta, MI

      You could give someone dog kibble as a gift and they'd still be thrilled because of the incredible wrapping! Great article. :)

    • RoseGardenAdvice profile image

      RoseGardenAdvice 7 years ago from San Francisco

      Awesome .. Good effort :)

    • iZeko profile image

      iZeko 7 years ago

      This is so cool!! I'll have to try it.

    • jonathan t profile image

      jonathan t 7 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      My friend loves to wrap gifts! I'm gonna have to share this great hub with her. I'm sure she'll really be into it!!!

    • Csjun89 profile image

      Csjun89 7 years ago

      Wow this is an awesome way of wrapping stuff

    • solar.power profile image

      solar.power 7 years ago from Brisbane

      Im going to wrap my wifes present using Furoshiki for her wifes birthday. The Japanese are a pretty crafty bunch. Great hub! Voted Up!!!

    • bookblog profile image

      bookblog 7 years ago

      Fantastic. I was actually looking for some information on this that I had cut from a magazine a while ago and which I seem to have misplaced. Finding your hub on this topic was brilliant. Thank you.

    • kaja_mel profile image

      kaja_mel 7 years ago from Saraland, AL

      I loved this. I will try this next holiday.

    • shimla profile image

      shimla 8 years ago

      Very Cool!

    • profile image

      mai-mai 8 years ago

      Wow! this stuff is really great.... I love japanese culture so much... and i want to learn more about this.... LOVE IT!!!!

    • lewgard profile image

      Kathleen Lewis 8 years ago from Southern Michigan

      This is such a beautiful art! I bet this would go over very well at a bridal shower. Thanks for the links.

    • Cathi Sutton profile image

      Cathi Sutton 8 years ago

      I enjoyed this very much! Thanks

    • ecogirl333 profile image

      ecogirl333 8 years ago

      These really are beautiful and something I plan to learn more about in 2010.

    • profile image

      BookFlame 8 years ago

      These are such stunning and beautiful designs. Quite an inpiration.

    • kephrira profile image

      kephrira 8 years ago from Birmingham

      This is what I love about the japanese - they can turn anything into an artform, from drinking tea to wrapping presents.

    • Betty Reid profile image

      Betty Reid 8 years ago from Texas

      Cool ideas. I'd love to receive a gift wrapped like these.

    • heydave profile image

      heydave 8 years ago

      Maybe I'll have to try this when I wrap my wife's present for her birthday.

    • thranax profile image

      Andrew 8 years ago from Rep Boston MA

      Some cute ideas here! I always learn so much different ideas from other cultures.


    • tim-tim profile image

      Priscilla Chan 8 years ago from Normal, Illinois

      Love it! Thanks for sharing.

    • flamingoes profile image

      flamingoes 8 years ago from Mumbai

      These are some amazing gift wrappings. Even the videos look wonderful.

    • ahuli profile image

      ahuli 8 years ago

      stunning! reposted your hub to my blog. with the backlink to you. hope you don't mind :)

    • profile image

      japanese words 9 years ago

      Great article. In Japan, most of the stores will do the wrapping. It is amazing to watch them do it though. completel different than the way I learned.

    • RiaMorrison profile image

      Ria Bridges 9 years ago from Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

      Very informative and interesting! I plan to give this a try when I next need to wrap something nicely. Definitely a lot more fun than just buying wrapping paper at the store!

    • Teeny Tots profile image

      Teeny Tots 9 years ago from USA

      Wow! I see a lot in japanese cartoon before, now I can do it.

      Thanks for your wonderful hub. :)

    • crazycat profile image

      crazycat 10 years ago from Philippines

      Cool! I like to learn that cloth wrapping though I'm pretty good with the paper wrapping. :)

    • profile image

      MaddyLane 10 years ago

      These are fantastic gift wrapping creations. I alos believe in recycling and using items to create original giftwrapping presentaions. I would like to invite you to see some of my giftwrapping creations and inspirations with the full instructions, visit gift wrapping! :)

    • profile image

      munia 10 years ago

      nice blog ,thank you

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Beautiful information!

    • profile image

      Stephanie 10 years ago

      This is such a unique idea. I own an online lingerie boutique that specializes in bridal lingerie showers. This would be such a beautiful and creative way to wrap lingerie for sure. Thanks for the info!

    • profile image

      intimo lingerie consultant 10 years ago

      Sort of like Origami but for gifts!

    • profile image

      virender 10 years ago

      good one but heard to undestand so describe normal

    • profile image

      mike 11 years ago

      What a great idea!

    • relache profile image

      Raye 11 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I often wrap things with plain brown paper, but studying the Japanese style has let me get more artful with little ribbon touches and other bits.

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 11 years ago from San Francisco

      I have to admit I went the easy way out with simple wrapping paper and ribbon. Thankfully, my family isn't as particular as the Japanese about this sort of thing.

    • relache profile image

      Raye 11 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Ok, so tonight and tomorrow are the big gift-giving moments.... how's everyone doing on their last-minute wrappings? Anyone need help?

    • relache profile image

      Raye 11 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Thanks, cityplus! I'm having fun playing with all this info myself.

    • cityplus profile image

      cityplus 11 years ago from San Francisco

      Wow! I really love this hub. This is a great collection of links and cool videos. Thanks for putting this all together. I think the link on gift giving protocol is very informative.