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K-12 Outreach for Japanese Culture: Furoshiki Wrappings

This guide is designed for K to 12 instructors who teach Japanese culture and traditions.

About this Page

The page is designed as a supplemental hands-on material for teaching Japanese culture to elementary to junior high school students. The column on the left is about the gernal information about furoshiki. And the column on the right side are videos produced by the East Asian Library devided into sections: basic, easy, intermediate and advanced.

Furoshiki Information

General Information:

Furoshiki is a single square piece of cloth used for wrapping, carrying and storing items. The techniques used in furoshiki wrapping are similar to that of origami wrapping. Furoshiki, which literally translates into “bath spread,” comes in a variety of sizes and cloth types such as cotton, silk and synthetic fibers such as nylon and rayon with various pattern motifs. Furoshiki became unpopular with the introduction of plastic bags, however with the recent concern of global warming, furoshiki has redrawn its attention in Japan as a non-disposable environmentally friendly tool. People now try to incorporate it into their daily lives to carry and wrap almost anything. Unlike the previous eras, furoshiki has evolved to be more decorative compared to the more utilitarian use before.

History:

With the introduction of furoshiki (it was not called furoshiki until the Edo period) more than 1200 years ago, the first 900 years of furoshiki’s long history were only used by the people in the upper classes. And during the Edo period (1603-1868), the furoshiki was widely used by the working class when the sento or the public bathhouses became popular. The Edo people used their furoshikis as a mat while undressing and after bathing, as a way to wrap their clothes to prevent any mix up of clothes, and as a way to carry their clothes to and from the bathhouse. Merchants were also using the furoshiki to carry their merchandise or gifts. 

Types of Cloths:

Furoshiki cloths come in a variety of different materials, textures, sizes and patterns. The most common furoshikis come in either cotton, silk or synthetic fabrics such as rayon and nylon. Synthetic fabrics such as rayon and nylon are great because they do not wrinkle as much as cotton and silk. 

Size Information:

Furoshikis come in a variety sizes typically between the sizes of 18 inches to 90 inches and utilize according to the object it will wrap. 27 inches is the most common size. Anything that is smaller than 20 inches is categorized as ko-furoshiki, or small furoshiki. The furoshikis that are larger than 20 inches and smaller than 40 inches are categorized into cyuu-furoshiki or medium furoshiki. This size range is the most common size range that is being used. And finally, anything that is larger than 40 inches is categorized as oo-furoshiki or large furoshiki.

Here is a visual guide that lists more specific items to wrap to get a general idea to guide you with your furoshiki adventures:

How to Take Care of It:

Getting a Furoshiki

You can either buy a furoshiki or make one yourself. You can also use a bandana as a substitute for a furoshiki cloth. 

How to Make your Own: 

Making your own furoshiki is actually quite easy if you have the materials and motivation.
1) Pick a fabric that is not too thick that you cannot tie a knot.
2) Cut a square in your desired size. Refer to the size guide above to find the size that is just right for you.
3) Iron the edges and hem at about ¼ inch way in.
You can also click on this tutorial for a more specific and detailed instructions.

Places to Buy Online:

TheLinkCollective: A shop that carries contemporary furoshiki textile designs.  A lot of the patterns are geometric with bold colors. The site also sells readymade furoshiki bags and materials to make those bags.

JapanScenery: A shop that incorporates Japanese inspired scenery in their textile designs. A lot of the patterns are inspired by nature and Japanese culture with cute character designs. The shop also carries tenugui, which is thin hand towel; try to read the titles before purchasing.  

KyotoCollection: A large shop that includes a lot of different types of furoshikis including double-sided furoshikis and cloths in different styles and sizes. The cloth they sell include contemporary and traditional styled Japanese inspired textiles. This shop also carries tenuguis. Make sure to read the title of the item before you make a purchase. 

Further Reading about Furoshiki

Basic Level

When beginning to fold furoshiki wraps, the very first and most essential step is to tie a knot correctly. This type of knot is called the ma-musubi in Japanese, which is better known as the square knot in English. By tying the furoshikis in this way, the ties will end up more elegant and strong, and it will be easier to untie the knots.

Easy

An instructional video on wrapping a tissue box. This is a fun way to decorate your room/house and to impress your guests!

 

This tutorial will show you great way for carrying a box of stuff. This is especially helpful when you do not want to carry the box of stuff with both of your hands like when it's raining or when riding a bike!

 

This way of wrapping is one of the most easiest and the most common way to wrap bottles. By carrying them in this way, the objects are very stable and do not bump into each other. This technique can also be used to store/carry your shoes! 

 

In this tutorial, we will show you how to do two similar folds, wrapping a box for a present. This fold can be made out of any fabric and can be used in different sized and shaped boxes.

 

For this tutorial, we will be making a very simple, and super easy shopping bag.

Intermediate

This is an instructional video on wrapping a box with a handle. This will be a great way to store and decorate various types of objects! 

 

This is one of the more unique ways of presenting your furoshiki wrappings. This wrapping could be a great gift for someone and a great decoration for a party! 

 

In this tutorial, we will show you how to do two similar folds that are based on rolling the furoshiki with a round object. The first one will be on how to wrap a bottle for a present or a decoration for a party, and the second we will show you how to wrap an umbrella with a handle.

Advanced

This is an instructional video on wrapping two identical objects in a very fashionable way. This will be a great way to carry two objects from the library! 

 

In this tutorial, we will show you how to wrap two bottles as a present. This method can be used to wrap if you do not have a large, flat and stable working space. It would also be a great gift or a party favor.

 

In this tutorial, we will show you how to wrap a bottle with a handle to carry. This would be a great way to present a gift.

In this video, we will show you how to wrap a bottle inspired by the shapes of the flower and leaves. This would make a great presentation for your bottle as a present for someone or as a decoration at a party!