Tsutsumu means to wrap or bundle up. The character originated as a representation of a child enclosed in its mother’s womb.That which is precious, we wrap up to protect. Glimpses of this sentiment can be seen in scenes from everyday life, showing that it is still being passed on in Japanese culture. The act of tsutsumu is revealing of the Japanese people’s consideration and aesthetics.

The Convenience of Furoshiki

Furoshiki are the original Japanese eco-bag. In terms of versatility they are far ahead of the paper bags and wrapping used nowadays. Any object, even irregularly-shaped ones, can be wrapped. Furoshiki are easy to tie and the finished product looks beautiful. They can be folded up compactly after use and used many times over. Could any other wrapping material be so practical?
There are various theories about the origins of the word furoshiki (furo[bath] + shiki [spread out]), but records from the Muromachi period (1333-1568) show that feudal lords wrapped their clothing in a cloth marked with their family crest at the bath house, and used this cloth to stand on afterwards while dressing and grooming themselves again. In the Edo period (1600-1868) furoshiki marked with brand and trade names apparently became popular and were used as a form of product advertising.
In modern times furoshiki are still utilized in a variety of ways. In the past, the sight of anyone dressed in western clothing clutching a furoshiki would have given an odd, mismatched impression, but recently an increasing number of people are using furoshiki instead of a simple bag or purse. This writer is one such person—I always have two or three furoshiki in my travel bag. They are perfect for bundling up changes of clothes, and also for wrapping up small objects or things I buy when I’m away. They’re also handy to scrunch up and stuff into the gaps inside my luggage as cushioning.

Use Them for Whatever You can Think of

“Furoshiki are popular not only with the Japanese, but also with people from overseas,” says Keiko Kikuta, owner of the furoshiki specialty shop Furoshiki-ya Yamatonadeshiko. “Furoshiki are so beautiful in themselves, some people use them for table cloths or scarves. They come in so many materials, sizes and patterns, that I’d love to see them being used imaginatively more and more in everyday life.” Once you learn the basic tying method, making simple but attractive bundles is surprisingly easy. Mid- and end-of-year gifts have long been sent by parcel delivery service, but to really show your feelings wrap a gift up in a furoshiki and deliver it by hand. Four examples of the many methods of tying furoshiki are shown here. Try them! Furoshiki are an eco-bag that we can proudly show the world.


These basic methods are all you need to know
The Two Basic Methods of Tying

■Single Knot

1. Match up the tip so that the back of the furoshiki is not visible.
2. Wind the tip around in one hand and make a loop.
3. Pass the tip through the loop.
4.Hold the tip and pull firmly.


■Basic Knot

1. Cross the tips over.
2. Wind the topmost tip over and around the other once.
3. Pull both ends to tie once.
4. Tilt the frontmost tip to the opposite side, pass the rear tip over and through the loop.
5. Pull on both ends to make firm the knot, then adjust the shape.
6. Finished. The knot should lie horizontally.

Undoing basic knot

1.Hold the section below the knot with the left hand, and pull the left tip with right hand in the direction of the arrow until you feel resistance.
2. Hold the knot from above with the right hand and pull to the right.

Basic Wrap

For a formal impression using one basic (ma-musubi) knot. This method is useful for carrying things because the shape holds well.

(right) The Furoshiki : This shade of light green (Rikyu) has a strong Japanese image and was popular in the Edo period. It is beautifully designed with a flowing water and chrysanthemum pattern. (Chrysanthemums and water, grayish green, 75cm width, 15,750 yen).

■Method of Tying

1. Place a box in the center of the furoshiki, decide the position in accordance with the pattern.
2. Cover the box neatly with the frontmost corner, and tuck the extra material underneath.
3. Bring the back corner over to cover the box in the same way.
4. Lift up the left corner while neatening the sides and bring it over the box.
5. Do the same with the right side.
6. Straighten out the angles on both sides and tie a ma-musubi over the box.
7. Tidy the knot to finish.

Wine Bottle Wrap

A decorative method of tying with tucks around the neck of the bottle. The surprise element makes this perfect for a gift.

(right) The Furoshiki : Made by contemporary dyer Yasuko Sato. A bold modern design that changes in appearance according to how the furoshiki is tied. (Iceflower blue, 70cm, 2,625 yen)

■Method of Tying

1. Spread the furoshiki into a diamond and place the bottle in the middle. Put a rubber band on the neck of the bottle.
2. Lift up the closest corner and fold at the top to match the bottle’s height.
3. Fold in from the edges to make pleats in this section, then hold in place with the rubber band.
4. Pleat the other side in the same way and hold in place with the rubber band.
5. Lift up the left and right tips, cross over behind the bottle and bring to the front.
6. Tie a ma-musubi knot around the bottle neck. Spread the pleats out and straighten the shape.

Photography / Satoru Naito, Satoshi Osaki Text / JQR Editorial Staff