Furoshiki

December 14, 2008

by Ayaka Okochi

FURO = bath

SHIKI (SHIKU) = spread

History

The furoshiki has a long history, as this square-shaped piece of cloth had already been used in the Nara period (710-794). At that time, it was called “tsutsumi” and was used to store important goods. It was called “koromo utsumi” during the Heian period (794-1185). It was mainly used as a cloth in which clothes were wrapped. After the Heian period it was referred to as “hira zutsumi” for a long time.Finally, the furoshiki came to be used in the bath during the Muromachi period (1336-1573).Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, who was a Shogun in this era, installed a large bathhouse in the residence that he had built in Kyoto, and he often invited feudal lords from the entire country to come to his esidence. At this time, furoshiki that contained kimono displayed the family crest so that its contents could not be mistaken for someone else’s. It is also is said that bathers dressed while standing on cloths after taking a bath. This is the origin of the term “furoshiki.”

In the Edo period (1603-1867), several terms were used, including “hira zutsumi” or “furoshiki zutsumi.” The terms changed according to how the cloth was used. However,the general public came to use furoshiki in the public baths. They used the cloth to carry a change of clothes and their bathing accessories. This custom then spread, so that soon the owner of a bookstore would wrap books, or a textile dealer would wrap clothes, and then they could go out for their business.

How to wrap with a furoshiki
Ma-musubi: the basic way of tying a furoshiki
1. Lay the furoshiki flat on a table. Bring two diagonally opposite corners of
the furoshiki together, and place the right corner over the left.
2. Bring the right corner under the left and pull.
3. Bring the corners together again so that the left corner is over the right
corner.
4. Bring the left corner under the right and pull until a knot is formed
5. This will make a “square” knot.

Otsukai- musubi : a convenient way to wrap square objects

1. Place a square object in the center of the furoshiki, which has already been laid out diagonally.
2. Bring the bottom corner of the furoshiki up and cover the object.
Then do the same with the top corner.
3. Next, bring the left and right corners together.
4. Tie them in a ma-musubi knot.

Bin-zutsumi : wrapping for bottles


1. Place two bottles lengthwise with their bottoms touching each other about
one quarter up from the bottom corner of a furoshiki that is laid out diagonally.
2. Bring the bottom corner of the furoshiki up and over the bottles.
3. Roll the bottles up in the furoshiki until they are completely covered,
leaving the left and right corners free.
4. Then stand the bottles up on end and use the two corners to tie a
ma-musubi knot.

Suika-zutsumi : wrapping for watermelons

1. Place a watermelon or any round object in the center of the furoshiki.
2. Tie two adjoining lower corners in a ma-musubi knot.
3. Do the same with two corners.
4. Pass one knot under the other and let the object be held naturally. The
remaining knot can then be used as a handle.

As new wrapping methods are devised, the possibilities for using a furoshiki increase.

24 Responses to “Furoshiki”

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  1. Gary Bloom says:

    Great article! I live in Kyoto and export authentic Japanese textiles for sale to the US and other countries. I have a pretty good page myself on furoshiki techniques at http://kyotocollection.com/what-is-a-furoshiki/. Check it out.

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