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Japanese Gift-Wrapping and Furoshiki

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It's NOT Just Inside That Counts

When it comes to Japanese gifts, it's not the inside that really counts. Gift-wrapping, called tsutsumi, is the most important part of the gift-giving it seems. How you wrap and tie the package is considered especially symbolic and carries a lot of expression about how you feels towards the person and the gesture of giving them a gift.

The wrapping around the gift is seen as being part of the entire gift experience, with the opening and revealing of the contents viewed as one complete experience. In Western culture, gift-wrapping seems mostly just meant to conceal the gift, with unwrapping often being very perfunctory or even crude. Japanese gifts are aestheic and beautiful on the outside, with the same full expression of the culture's love of balance, nature, novelty and simplicty.

The root of the word tsutsumi is the word that means "to refrain" meaning to be discreet or moderate. Simple but gorgeous paper wrapping, tied with gentle natural fibers or thin ribbons make a bold but beautiful understatement when compared to the flashy papers and big bows found in American forms of wrapping.


Simple Wrap and Tie

Your basic package wrap done with a cloth furoshiki.

Your basic package wrap done with a cloth furoshiki.

Wrapping How-To Guides

  • How To Do Japanese Gift-Wrapping
    Japanese-style gift-wrapping, called tsutsumi, uses paper and cloth to create simple but elegant wrappings for gifts, presents and packages. Furoshiki refers to using a large piece of cloth for the wrapping. These techniques are perfect for birthdays
  • Wrap Artist (washingtonpost.com)
    Akiko Keene, 62, Japanese gift wrapper Sunday, December 5, 2004
  • In Japan, it's the wrap that counts
    While many Japanese wrapping techniques are as intricate as origami (and require similarly complicated diagrams to puzzle through), others can be managed easily.
  • Japanese Style Gift Wrapping
    Japanese-style gift wrapping for gifts such as a Birthday, Father's Day and Wedding gift, etc.
  • Japanese Gift Wrapping: All About The Folding Arts
    The practice of so called origata, or a bit longer carefully wrapping gifts in decorative paper, is actually an ancient habit that dates back several hundreds of years and has been perfected to quite a level since then.

Visit a famous Furoshiki store in Kyoto

The History of Furoshiki

One type of wrapping that is uniquely Japanese is the furoshiki. The word itself translates as "bath spread" and is a large piece of cloth that was originally used to carry your clean clothing and bath items to the public bath house. Usage expanded to carrying groceries and other small shopping purchases. Eventually the furoshiki was used for wrapping and transporting wares to market, and in modern times is also employed as a way to wrap and give gifts.

Furoshiki can be made of just about any kind of fabric (cotton, silk, rayon or nylon) and there is no standard size. You get or make your furoshiki as large as you need it to be for whatever you are wrapping and carrying. There are dozens of methods for tying a furoshiki, most of which turn some part of the fabric into a convenient handle for the person doing the carrying.

After World War II, the modern plastic bag began to replace traditional methods of carrying purchases. However with environmental concerns on the rise, using a furoshiki has come back into fashion as it is reusable and eliminates trash.


See how to tie a Furoshiki

Make Your Own Furoshiki

It's a lot easier to make your own furoshiki than you think! Really, it can be just about any square or rectangle of cloth. Using a print makes it look much more traditional than using a plain color.

Sew your own - If you are handy with a sewing machine, it's easy to get the right size piece of fabric you need and hem it yourself. You can try your local fabric store, or if you are on a really tight budget, look for fabrics at thrift stores. You never know what you might find that works beautifully.

Find things that work at thrift stores - One of the most common sizes for a furoshiki is about 17" square, which is approximately the same size as the modern Western men's handkerchief. Ladies scarves are also good recycled as a furoshiki. Both of these items can be hunted down for very low-costs at your local thrift stores.


History of Tsutsumi

The Wrap Up - comments and feedback

Alison on January 30, 2018:

I once gave a gift wrapped/tied only with a kente strip. Years later, that strip still decorates his window. Until he uses it to tie a gift.

Raye (author) from Seattle, WA on January 03, 2015:

Cloth wrapping around the world is very similar.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on January 02, 2015:

their wrapping style reminds me of Wallace and gromit. Gromit wrap up his bundle like that when he left home.

Sarah Forester from Australia on February 24, 2014:

This looks really interesting and cool!

Brenda Kyle from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA on December 19, 2012:

Very lovely. Always glad to see a reusable gift wrapping.

SilkThimble from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 10, 2011:

Some very good information and useful resources.

Bryce from Northern California Coast on November 16, 2011:

Lovely. I enjoyed your background and suggestions. This also cuts down on waste from disposable gift wrap.

Catherine Brooks from Santa Rosa, CA on June 20, 2011:

Wow....Superb.....I like it....thanks

Cynthia B Turner from Georgia on February 25, 2011:

Wow! That was a great how to. I have a birthday gift to wrap and I love different ways to wrap gifts I present. I will wrap Japanese style today. Thanks so much.

anjali on February 04, 2011:

this so cool. the idea is so great

tpneversaynever from California on January 23, 2011:

Beautiful. I'm very inspired to try this. Thank you!

vandell on January 17, 2011:

Wow! Thumbs up

deblipp on December 19, 2010:

Excellent hub!!!!

The hub which is projected towards presenting the gift is simple fabulous. It is true that, how you wrap and tie the package is considered especially symbolic and carries a lot of expression about how you feels towards the person and the gesture of giving them a gift. Thanks for sharing such a valuable peace of text.

adair_francesca on December 08, 2010:

Great hub. I consider gift wrapping as an art. The designs and the wrapping materials used are wonderful, it adds some beauty as well as increases the excitement of the person who will receive the gift.

Kristine B on November 20, 2010:

How fun!

bletchen from uk on September 21, 2010:

These are really cool. I used to do a bit of origami as a kid, and japanese art has a certain something about it - it's always very intricate and you can see the time that's been put into it - nice hub by the way :-)

HolyLandGifts from Vancouver on September 21, 2010:

very cool :D going to try next holiday :)

CarolMerc from LA on August 26, 2010:

Looks great! Nice inspiration.

KristenBrockmeyer from Augusta, MI on August 12, 2010:

You could give someone dog kibble as a gift and they'd still be thrilled because of the incredible wrapping! Great article. :)

RoseGardenAdvice from San Francisco on August 08, 2010:

Awesome .. Good effort :)

iZeko on August 05, 2010:

This is so cool!! I'll have to try it.

jonathan t from Burlingame, CA on July 20, 2010:

My friend loves to wrap gifts! I'm gonna have to share this great hub with her. I'm sure she'll really be into it!!!

Csjun89 on June 25, 2010:

Wow this is an awesome way of wrapping stuff

solar.power from Brisbane on June 07, 2010:

Im going to wrap my wifes present using Furoshiki for her wifes birthday. The Japanese are a pretty crafty bunch. Great hub! Voted Up!!!

bookblog on April 14, 2010:

Fantastic. I was actually looking for some information on this that I had cut from a magazine a while ago and which I seem to have misplaced. Finding your hub on this topic was brilliant. Thank you.

kaja_mel from Saraland, AL on April 05, 2010:

I loved this. I will try this next holiday.

Scott M on March 17, 2010:

Very Cool!

mai-mai on February 22, 2010:

Wow! this stuff is really great.... I love japanese culture so much... and i want to learn more about this.... LOVE IT!!!!

Kathleen Lewis from Southern Michigan on February 12, 2010:

This is such a beautiful art! I bet this would go over very well at a bridal shower. Thanks for the links.

Cathi Sutton on February 10, 2010:

I enjoyed this very much! Thanks

ecogirl333 on December 22, 2009:

These really are beautiful and something I plan to learn more about in 2010.

BookFlame on December 21, 2009:

These are such stunning and beautiful designs. Quite an inpiration.

kephrira from Birmingham on December 10, 2009:

This is what I love about the japanese - they can turn anything into an artform, from drinking tea to wrapping presents.

Betty Reid from Texas on November 27, 2009:

Cool ideas. I'd love to receive a gift wrapped like these.

heydave on November 08, 2009:

Maybe I'll have to try this when I wrap my wife's present for her birthday.

Andrew from Rep Boston MA on November 06, 2009:

Some cute ideas here! I always learn so much different ideas from other cultures.

~thranax~

Priscilla Chan from Normal, Illinois on September 29, 2009:

Love it! Thanks for sharing.

flamingoes from Mumbai on April 20, 2009:

These are some amazing gift wrappings. Even the videos look wonderful.

ahuli on April 15, 2009:

stunning! reposted your hub to my blog. with the backlink to you. hope you don't mind :)

japanese words on March 16, 2009:

Great article. In Japan, most of the stores will do the wrapping. It is amazing to watch them do it though. completel different than the way I learned.

Ria Bridges from Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada on January 04, 2009:

Very informative and interesting! I plan to give this a try when I next need to wrap something nicely. Definitely a lot more fun than just buying wrapping paper at the store!

Teeny Tots from USA on October 09, 2008:

Wow! I see a lot in japanese cartoon before, now I can do it.

Thanks for your wonderful hub. :)

crazycat from Philippines on January 09, 2008:

Cool! I like to learn that cloth wrapping though I'm pretty good with the paper wrapping. :)

MaddyLane on December 04, 2007:

These are fantastic gift wrapping creations. I alos believe in recycling and using items to create original giftwrapping presentaions. I would like to invite you to see some of my giftwrapping creations and inspirations with the full instructions, visit www.miycreations.com...Happy gift wrapping! :)

munia on August 27, 2007:

nice blog ,thank you

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 25, 2007:

Beautiful information!

Stephanie on July 09, 2007:

This is such a unique idea. I own an online lingerie boutique that specializes in bridal lingerie showers. This would be such a beautiful and creative way to wrap lingerie for sure. Thanks for the info!

intimo lingerie consultant on May 31, 2007:

Sort of like Origami but for gifts!

virender on April 23, 2007:

good one but heard to undestand so describe normal

mike on March 19, 2007:

What a great idea!

Raye (author) from Seattle, WA on January 08, 2007:

I often wrap things with plain brown paper, but studying the Japanese style has let me get more artful with little ribbon touches and other bits.

Jason Menayan from San Francisco on January 08, 2007:

I have to admit I went the easy way out with simple wrapping paper and ribbon. Thankfully, my family isn't as particular as the Japanese about this sort of thing.

Raye (author) from Seattle, WA on December 24, 2006:

Ok, so tonight and tomorrow are the big gift-giving moments.... how's everyone doing on their last-minute wrappings? Anyone need help?

Raye (author) from Seattle, WA on December 19, 2006:

Thanks, cityplus! I'm having fun playing with all this info myself.

cityplus from San Francisco on December 17, 2006:

Wow! I really love this hub. This is a great collection of links and cool videos. Thanks for putting this all together. I think the link on gift giving protocol is very informative.

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