Furoshiki: Japan’s traditional wrapping cloth with a multitude of uses

Living sustainably and maximising the use of your belongings also extends to using a product for multiple purposes. That’s where the Japanese tradition of Furoshiki comes in really handy.

Furoshiki is a Japanese traditional wrapping cloth, using origami folding concepts, that is eco-friendly. It is mostly used for wrapping gift, carrying goods or as decor.

Let’s say you are out and about and you have forgotten your reusable bag at home, but you are wearing a scarf. Fortunately you can take off that scarf and fold it into a grocery bag in minutes.

The word Furoshiki comes from two different words, they are “Furo” and “Shiki” meaning “Bath” and “To Spread”.

Possibly dating back as far as the Nara Period (AD 710 to 794), furoshiki gained their name from the Edo period (1603 to 1868), when people used pieces of cloth for bundling clothes while at the public baths.

As time went on, and people had a tendency to move around more for business and pleasure, merchants used furoshiki to help transport, protect and decorate their wares. Furoshiki became an indispensable tool in Japanese life.

Modern furoshiki can be made of a variety of cloth, including silk, chirimen, cotton, rayon, and nylon. They are often decorated with traditional designs or by shibori (a type of Japanese tie-dye technique). There is no one set size for furoshiki, they can range from hand sized to larger than bed-sheets.

Although the number of furoshiki users declined with the introduction of plastic shopping bags and other disposables in Japan, furoshiki is now on the rise again as people worldwide become aware of the urgency to stop using plastic and seek sustainable alternatives.

As environmental issues have become more recognised globally, Japan has seen a renewed interest in this multi-functional piece of textile. In 2006 Yuriko Koike, the Japanese Minister of the Environment, started the Mottainai Furoshiki campaign, which urges shoppers to use furoshiki in place of plastic shopping bags.

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea

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