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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
Undoing basic knot
For a formal impression using one basic (ma-musubi) knot. This method is useful for carrying things because the shape holds well.
■Method of Tying
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.
■Method of Tying
Photography / Satoru Naito, Satoshi Osaki Text / JQR Editorial Staff