Earth Matters by Jacqueline Milner – Furoshiki – December 5, 2010 – Cornwall Ontario

Cornwall ON – My husband returned home from a short road trip and was telling me about a conversation he had heard on our local French Radio Station, CHOD FM, on gift wrapping in material.  He suggested I Google “Furoshiki” for more information.

Off I went to my key-board to find out more.  “Furoshiki” is derived from the words furo (bath) and shiki (spread) and was coined when the public bath houses (sento) were popular in Japan from about  (1615 – 1860’s)  The furoshiki, a square cloth, was used to wrap and transport their change of clothes and bathing accessories and served double duty as a bath mat.  The functional and essential furoshiki was used daily in the life of the working class Japanese.  The following illustration shows many ways of using this art of wrapping.

In Japan, the presentation of a gift is as important as the gift.  Furoshiki is used for wrapping a special gift in this culture; the attention of the wrapping conveys a degree of politeness, dignity or respect in a nation where indirect communication is valued.  Wrappings are also meant to conform to the formality of the event or the value of the gift.  This might be indicated by a particular pattern or colour used in the wrapping.  Vendors carried and displayed their wares on the furoshiki. Gifts for weddings and special occasions were in the furoshiki.  The advent of the plastic bag saw the decline of the every day use of the furoshiki.  Due to the environmentally supportive qualities of this versatile item and the world’s concern for the health of the planet, Japan and the world are now seeing a resurgence in the daily use of the furoshiki.

The furoshiki can easily be used instead of a bag (as pictured below) or for storing or transporting articles.  A short video to view the tying of the furoshiki for your grocery or gift purchases can be seen at this link: Larger furoshiki are used for wrapping bulker items such as TV’s; for decorating walls, tables, beds and pillows.  This versatile article can be used in many different ways.

A furoshiki is a practical receptacle to transport home the day’s groceries.  I quickly assembled one of these bags to see its practicality and its degree of facility to put into service.  I made the bag above from a 34” x 34” scarf that I had.  The bag was easily pulled together within seconds and conveniently holds various items that one might purchase on a quick trip to the grocery store.  What I especially like about the furoshiki is that it is easily stored in ones glove compartment or purse (so as to be available when needed) and that the item can be quickly unknotted to be laundered when necessary.

Furoshiki is an amazing tool that can be incorporated into our daily lives every day of the year.  This is an item that can easily be recycled, reused and repurposed.  The only consideration I might suggest is that a material be used that will easily decompose back to its basic components without any harmful effects to our earth once it has been worn and torn to uselessness.  Consider fabrics made from hemp, bamboo, soybean and organic cotton.

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