Japanese have talents for elaborating patterns on cloth and clothes. Several examples from the traditional Japanese goods exist as the Kimono (着物), Yukata (浴衣), hachimaki (鉢巻き), handkerchieves (ハンカチ), etc. Numerous items still used in everyday’s life. It can be employed as clothes, as tools, as decoration, etc.
How about the “furoshiki” (風呂敷)?
“Furoshiki” cloth is a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth, mainly used to transport clothes, gifts, or other goods. Sometimes food, especially, bento boxes are usually wrapped in a “furoshiki”. You might also have seen Geishas, Maikos or someone wearing a kimono that are hanging a bag that reminds small bunches of laundry, tied up into spheric shape. Sumo wrestlers use also “furoshiki”, when being out and wearing traditional Japanese clothes. “Furoshiki” also is considered as the casual traditional bag in Japanese culture.
The origin goes way back to the Nara period, where “furoshiki” was used when people going to onsen (温泉, hot spring) try to avoid to mix up their clothes, by wrapping them up in “furoshiki” (furo=風呂=‘bath’ / shiki=敷く= ‘spread’). Later it was used by merchants to wrap up and therefore protect their goods.
Sizes and material of “furoshiki” vary though the standard shape is squared. The usual used materials have to be light, such as silk, chirimen, cotton, rayon, and nylon. the design is, in general, repetitive or inspired from traditional motifs, some are also made by shibori, which is a traditional Japanese tie-dying technique. Most common size would be 45 cm or 68–72 cm, though some can be even bigger than blankets.
Recently wooden or plastic ring hangers are sold at specialised stores, to make your own “furoshiki” bag. That needs certain wrap and tie technique, you can easily employ your “furoshiki” as a small bag. Do not hesitate to use “furoshiki” and let your taste of decoration and imagination blowing away, and if you are in search of a unique souvenir, a “furoshiki” will guarantee a smile of gratitude.