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YumeTwins Kawaii Culture BlogFuroshiki: How The Cloth Wrap Turned Into a Kawaii Accessory!

Furoshiki: How The Cloth Wrap Turned Into a Kawaii Accessory!

By Bianca Bache
February 07, 2023

The modern take on one of Japan’s oldest practical fashion trends, furoshiki! Furoshiki has a long and colorful history in Japan, from a humble wrap to being a standout everyday kawaii accessory. Through the centuries, furoshiki has maintained its stronghold on Japan. So how is furoshiki still relevant today?

Furoshiki (風呂敷 ~ ふろしき) is a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth usually used to wrap and transport goods such as food, personal belongings, and gifts. Furoshiki has had a few name changes through the years, but the general idea has remained the same. The single piece of fabric has been used for more than 1000 years and, to this day, holds all the wisdom of Japan’s predecessors. 

A Japanese wrapping cloth called Furoshiki that is a square cloth used in Japan to wrap and carry things.
Traditionally cloths were made from silk or cotton. Image via Shutterstock

The history of the traditional wrapping cloth 

The first notable record of the furoshiki was In the Nara period (710-794). Tsutsumi (wrapping), as it was initially called, was first used as a cloth to protect valuables and precious items. The cloths were often used and found in Japanese temples. Years later, it was documented that there were fabrics called koromozutsumi which were referred to as “flat packages.” Although there isn’t a large amount of information about the earlier uses of the cloth. The history it does have shows the significance and usefulness of the fabrics in traditional Japan. 

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The first notable time the word “furoshiki” was used was after Shogun Ashikaga built a bathhouse during the Muromachi period. The shogun invited lords across Japan to come and enjoy the newly built steam baths. In order to make sure their clothes did not mix with each other, the lords used silk cloths with their family crests printed on them. And thus, the furoshiki as we know it was born! 

The rise of the cloth bags

As public sento (bathhouses) grew in numbers during the Muromachi period (1136 to 1573), so did the use of the furoshiki. People all across Japan started using these wraps as a means of transporting clothing. The word furoshiki is a combination of two words, “furo” and “shiki,” meaning “bath” and “to spread”! 

Women wearing a kimono carrying a box wrapped with a purple furoshiki
Over the last few years there has been a rise in using the cloth as gift wrapping. Image via Shutterstock

As time moved on, cloth bags began to trend more among the general public. It wasn’t too long before everyone had to get their hands on a furoshiki. The use of the bags went beyond just using them to carry clothes. The general public began transporting all types of things, from food items and shopping goods to transporting tools, delicate items, glass bottles, and various gifts!

What does the future mean for furoshiki? 

The use of furoshiki as daily bags was the preferred method of carrying items. But as Japan entered the 1940’s there was a notable decline in the use of the bags. New advances in technology created a significant push for plastic and plastic bags. As plastic bags were easily accessible and convenient to use, the preference for plastic grew, and the tradition of cloth bags fell by the wayside. 

But luckily, that is not the end of the traditional cloth wrap. Over the last 10 years, Japan has taken a step forward to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags. In 2020 the Japanese government placed a ban on free plastic bags. Shops, convenience stores, and restaurants had to start charging customers for the bags. The ban aimed to reduce plastic waste in Japan and encourage the reusable-bag lifestyle instead. 

Japanese bento box on a pink furoshiki cloth
Use the cloth wrap as a bento box wrap cover for a fun twist to lunch! Image via Shutterstock

From the free plastic bags and the recent environmental awareness, furoshiki have become popular again! People in Japan have now included cloth bags as a fashionable alternative for wrapping and transporting items. 

Do you want to try adding Japanese cloth wrap to an outfit or to keep your bento lunch box together? Here are our failproof furoshiki wrapping techniques that can help! 

How to tie a furoshiki 

How to Tie a Furoshiki around a Bento Box:

  1. Place the box in the middle of the furoshiki design side down.
  2. Fold one corner over the box.
  3. Fold the opposite corner over the box.
  4. Lift the two unfolded corners and tie them in a knot.
  5. Finish with another knot parallel to the first knot.

Hot to Tie a Fursoshiki into a Purse:

  1. Place the items in the middle of the furoshiki design side down.
  2. Tie 1 set of opposite corners together to secure the items. 
  3. Tie the other two corners together to create the straps. 

There are many more ways to tie a furoshiki. With a little bit of research and practice, you can master them all!

A Yumetwins guide on how to tie a furoshiki
Your best guide to tying a bento box and purse. Image via YumeTwins

Furoshiki and fashion 

A furoshiki isn’t just for utility, the aesthetics of the cloth play a role just as important! In Japan, it’s common to see girls and women tying their furoshiki onto a cute purse when wearing a yukata or kimono at festivals and cultural events!

A current growing trend in Japanese fashion is seeing more of a mix of modern and traditional together. New vibrant patterns and designs are incorporated into the old furoshiki design. You can even find specialty designs with adorable Japanese characters as a fabric pattern too! These uniquely Japanese cloths move beyond being functional but act as a way to show style as well as giving a nod to tradition. 

Yellow machiora flowers and Japanese style furoshiki. Holiday greeting design concept with carnation bouquet on pink table.
Fun and unique patters have become more popular recently as more people move towards using the cloth wraps in their daily lives. Image via Shutterstock

How could you bring a bit of kawaii flair with furoshiki to your outfit? Here are our top 5 ways 

  1. Scarf: A furoshiki cloth can be worn as a scarf, adding a touch of traditional Japanese style to an outfit. Simply fold a roll the fabric and tie it around your neck, 
  2. Headwear: Some people in Japan use furoshiki cloths as headwear, folding it into a headband, turban, or another style to accessorize their outfits.
  3. Belt: Fold the cloth in half to form a triangle shape, and wrap it around your waist to create a unique and functional belt.

Whether you use the Japanese cloth, wrap as an added pop of color to your outfit, or use it as a functional, cute bag. We know that the furoshiki wrap can become a daily staple. 

What do you think the best use of the furoshiki is? Let us know in the comments below! 

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Bianca Bache

Tokyo based writer that's enthusiastic about all things kawaii and cute!

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