Home Art and cultureJapanese Furoshiki: 1,200-Year Wrapping Culture to Protect Environment
Japanese Furoshiki: 1,200-Year Wrapping Culture to Protect Environment

Japanese Furoshiki: 1,200-Year Wrapping Culture to Protect Environment

Lately, topic related to environmental protection has been gaining more and more public attention. Ironically, we are finding ways to solve the problems caused by ourselves. A way to reduce plastic waste is to find reusable and environmentally sustainable method. Many are now turning to the Japanese Furoshiki which is the Japanese Wrapping Culture. In this blog post, we are to briefly look at the history of this culture and how it helps to reduce waste.

History of the Japanese Furoshiki

Furoshiki is a practice of wrapping something with a single piece of cloth. This practice can be traced back to 1,200 years ago. As time progressed, the practice of wrapping with a single piece of cloth became nationally widespread. It started to keep the valuables of the Japanese Emperor back to the Nara Period (around the 8th century). Then people used the old cloth in the safekeeping. Toward Heian Period, only the noble used their luxurious cloth to keep their clothes.

The Japanese practice of Furoshiki looks elegant with basic piece of cloth
The Japanese practice of Furoshiki looks elegant with basic piece of cloth

The name “Furoshiki” only came into being during the Muromachi period lasting from 1136 to 1573. A shogun, whose name was Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, erected a large steam bath house and invited the lords there to entertain. These guests would wrap their kimonos (Japanese traditional clothes) with the Furoshiki so that they would not mistakenly take clothes of others. Often, the cloths they brought were patterned with traits that suggested who owned it. People often translate it as “bath spread” because when the lords finished bathing, they would stood on the cloth to dry themselves.

As the public bath houses became popular, the practice of Furoshiki did too. And the practice stretched to a tradition, not only to wrap clothes but also food, books, etc.

This Furoshiki tradition had a long history dating back to 1,200 years ago
This Furoshiki tradition had a long history dating back to 1,200 years ago

Furoshiki is among the best way to protect environment

The practice of Furoshiki became popular until World War II. Toward the end of World War II, a large number of Japanese gave up on Furoshiki as the introduction of plastic nylon. But recently, people are getting more and more concerned about what is happening with the environment. In other words, people are realizing how much damage they have caused to the environment. There should be a reduction in the plastic/nylon things in order to save the environment.

Japanese women in the past with Furoshiki tradition wrapping things with a single cloth
Japanese women in the past with Furoshiki tradition wrapping things with a single cloth

Accordingly, 2006, the Japanese Minister of Environment motivated the Japanese to re-apply the tradition of Furoshiki with a view to environmental protection. Many schools around the world are now teaching their students about this wrapping culture. Paper wrapping of course does less harm to the environment than the plastic wrapping. Yet, the goal is to reduce the waste to the minimum level so the application of Furoshiki has been the most practical by far. Because a single cloth can be re-used multiple time while the paper wrapping is wasteful no matter how captivating it might look.

A lesson of learning Furoshiki tradition in Japan
A lesson of learning Furoshiki tradition in Japan

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