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Cool Japan Souvenirs: 10 Reasons You’ll Want a Japanese Furoshiki Wrap!

Cool Japan Souvenirs: 10 Reasons You’ll Want a Japanese Furoshiki Wrap!

Date published: 12 April 2019

A furoshiki is a traditional type of Japanese wrapping cloth whose existence may date back as far as the 8th century. Its current name however, meaning "bath" (furo) "spread" (shiki), derives from 14th-16th century onsen bath houses that were used predominantly by the Japanese aristocracy. The samurai who frequented these bath houses would use cloths emblazoned with their families' crest to wrap up their belongings while they went for a relaxing hot spring soak. The bathers would subsequently spread the cloth that they had used to carry their belongings across the floor while they redressed, hence the name, furoshiki.

In the proceeding centuries since, furoshiki wraps have taken on a multitude of purposes in Japanese culture. They are renowned for their fine, yet sturdy, material, versatility and traditional artistic designs, plus they can double up as a great souvenir. Here are 10 reasons you'll want to get your hands on a Japanese furoshiki wrap!

1. Furoshiki Gift Wrap

1. Furoshiki Gift Wrap

Furoshiki have no set size, yet typically fall within two different size parameters – either 45cm-squared, or somewhere between 68-72cm-squared. Although, in rarer cases, they can be as small as a handkerchief or as large as a bed spread.

The standard sizes of furoshiki provide an awesome environmentally-friendly gift wrap that can be used to artistically conceal the majority of your gifts and souvenirs. Before acquiring the name of "furoshiki", these cloths were called "tsutsumi", they're purpose was believed to be a way to help protect and transport treasures that were found in Japanese temples. As such, you can bet they're pretty useful when it comes to wrapping things up!

A well-wrapped furoshiki can add an extra little bit of finesse to your gift, be it chocolates, apparel, books, ornaments and much else. Wrapping a furoshiki can be an intricate process, but the internet is awash in instructive video resources to help you along the way. And, in certain stores, they may show you how to properly wrap your furoshiki as part of the service charge!

2. Works of Furoshiki Art

2. Works of Furoshiki Art

You can also hang a furoshiki from your wall to brighten up the visage of any room in your house. Japan is renowned for its distinctive art styles, which are often present on furoshiki. Intricately woven patterns and designs in myriad colors can help to give your living or dining room a creative oriental spin. Unlike framed works of art, they are easy to transport home and often have double-sided prints. If you're feeling like a mood shift or just want a change in scenery, you can simply flip your furoshiki around unleashing a new pattern or color variation upon the surrounding room.

3. Embrace the Bathhouse Tradition!

3. Embrace the Bathhouse Tradition!

Going for an onsen in Japan? Don't forget your furoshiki. Chances are you'll want to check out an onsen hot spring during your travels, particularly if you're here during the Japanese winter. If you've got your furoshiki in tow, it's a great opportunity to use it for the purpose by which it acquired its name.

4. Transforms into a Furoshiki Bag

4. Transforms into a Furoshiki Bag

Following the days of furoshiki being used as bath mats for aristocratic feet, they started to become more widely circulated among the general civilian population. Many merchants and traders would use them as makeshift bags, carrying aids or as a method to maintain the organisation of their stocks and wares.

You too can carry extra items or newly purchased ones in your furoshiki. One perturbation many tourists have with purchasing things in Japan, is the sheer amount of plastic that seems to be used. Items are often wrapped, double-wrapped, sealed and then put into plastic bags. To avoid all of this unnecessary wastage, why not just use your furoshiki instead?

5. Packing Aid

5. Packing Aid

You can literally wrap your souvenirs in a souvenir! If you've ever experienced that frustrating feeling of not being able to clearly separate your belongings when packing your suitcase, then a furoshiki might be the key ingredient to help assuage those frustrations. This can be especially helpful if you're sharing your suitcase with someone else.

Wrapping up your clothes in a furoshiki helps conveniently separate items in your suitcase so that nothing gets mixed up or lost among the debris. Not mention that you'll scarcely add any extra weight to your bag in the process.

6. Summer Furoshiki Shoes

6. Summer Furoshiki Shoes

Furoshiki shoes were first proposed around the turn of the decade in 2011. In some circles they have achieved a vogue status as alternative options to flip flops, sandals and other varieties of summer footwear. They are flexible, machine washable and weigh only around 200 grams per pair. Many stores both on the ground and online sell rubber-soled furoshiki shoes which are pretty versatile in their usage.

You can also try DIY furoshiki shoes. Wrap a furoshiki around each foot, tying them as though they were mini bags and they'll protect your feet from scorching summer floor tiles or baking hot sand. They might not be as durable as they're rubber-soled counterparts, but when in need, you may well be thankful of them.

7. Winter Scarf

7. Winter Scarf

For when it gets chilly in the winter, your furoshiki can also double up as a scarf. This one is self-evident. The Japanese winter can certainly get cold, and if you're furoshiki isn't already carrying items, helping to organize your suitcase or drying out after a trip to the bath house, then wrap it around your neck to stave of the icy chill.

8. Furoshiki Picnic Blanket

8. Furoshiki Picnic Blanket

Laying down your furoshiki as a blanket to enhance your hanami viewing experience is another option, thought this is commensurate with the cloth's size. Hanami is the tradition of having a picnic in view of the cherry blossoms in spring, it's one of the nation's most popular past times. Larger furoshiki should be able to accommodate at least one person plus food. However, in the event that you've only got a smaller furoshiki, then at least it can be used as a personal spread on which you can place your picnic beer and munchies.

9. Furoshiki Placemat

9. Furoshiki Placemat

Furoshiki are a great way to dress up your table at home in artistic Japanese designs. Whether it's spread over a coffee table, draped over the kitchen table or used as a placemat for individual diners, a furoshiki is a cool way to spruce up your meals with a sprinkling of traditional Japanese culture. Serving up some fresh sushi or home-cooked ramen on one of these is sure-fire way to impress your guests!

10. Furoshiki Souvenir

10. Furoshiki Souvenir

One of the best and most versatile souvenirs or gifts that you can bring back from the land of the rising sun. The previous 9 reasons have probably made it pretty evident that furoshiki are incredibly useful items, so whether you decide to use yours as a tablecloth, laptop cover, or another innovative purpose, we're sure you'll love having one of your own. Furoshiki are available in shops and stores all around the country, so be sure to be on the lookout during your stay!

Written by:

David McElhinney

David McElhinney

David is a Northern Irish freelance writer and English teacher living in Tokyo. He loves living in Japan, reading about Japan, writing about Japan and eating Japanese food. He also spends a lot of time exercising, playing rugby and risking a litany of muscle-related injuries in yoga class.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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