The most representative design of furoshiki should be “karakusa (arabesque) pattern.” It is a pattern that has been popular in Japan for a long time, but it is said that its origin is in ancient Greece. It was eventually used in Mesopotamia and Egypt, and it is thought that it was transmitted to Japan around the Nara period (AD 710 to 794) through the Silk Road. The pattern that multiple vines of the arabesque (medicago) intertwined and woven together expresses the vital force of the vines, which has meanings such as descendant prosperity. It may also be used for body parts of shishimai that appear in festivals throughout Japan.
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Common Furoshiki patterns:
“Seigaiha”(blue sea wave) is said to have originated from ancient Persia, and it is also said that it was introduced to Japan around the Asuka period (AD 538 to 710) through the Silk Road. Sequences of multiple arcs expressing the lush ocean waves are beautiful and never get bored of.
“Asanoha”(hemp leaf) is a geometric pattern shaped like hemp leaves as its name suggests. Hemp is cultivated from ancient times in Japan and was familiar to people’s lives. Hemp that grows strongly and produces edible seeds and good quality fibers that are the materials of clothing, has been regarded as auspicious. It seems that it became a general pattern around the Heian era (AD 794 to 1185).
“Yagasuri”(arrow feathers) is shaped like an arrow feather, originally woven by the technique of kasuri (splashed pattern). It was regarded as lucky charm for brides at the wedding since the arrow does not come back when it shoots.
Other traditional patterns include “sakura” (cherry blossoms), “kouyou” (autumn leaf), “ougi” (fans), “kagome” (woven-bamboo), “shippou” (seven treasures), “ryusui” (flowing water), “kumo” (cloud), “kasumi” (haze), “kikkou” (tortoise shell), “matsu” (pine), “take” (bamboo) and so on.
Also, it has been common practice to include your own crest. Distinguished families competed in adding family crests to furoshiki. Merchants put “yagoumon (house name crest)”, which can be said logo in modern form, and utilised for business.
Furoshiki sometimes makes use of the “whole” pattern of the woven fabric as it is. There are varieties like plain, polka dots and floral patterns. Various compositions are also used so that it looks beautiful when spread and when wrapped.
“Sumituke” (corner addition) is one that puts a marking in one corner or several of the four corners. The family crest and logo are added at one point, so the image of the whole furoshiki is tightened. Those that have a marking in four corners are called “yosumidori” (four corner take). Dividing a furoshiki at diagonals into two triangles, that each of them containing a different color is called “nanamedori” (diagonal take).
“Gakudori” (frame take) is a style that changes the colour of the outer frame making full use of the square shape of the furoshiki. Ones with increased number of large and small frames to make it like a ring is “masudori” (box take), rotating the frame and making it a pattern of diamond is called “hishidori” (diamond take).
“Seiudori” (full wings take) is ones with a thick line running straight from end to end of the furoshiki. Depending on the running angle and position of the line, there are “tachiseiudori” (standing full wings take), “koginmigituke” (kogin right addition), “noshimedori” (noshime take) and etc.
“Marudori” (circle take) is one with a circular pattern in the centre of the furoshiki. There are cases where it is only a simple circle, and some also accompany patterns that decorate the circle.
“Shihounirami” (four direction glare) has a pattern of the same shape radially from the centre on the four corners. When wrapping square articles, the whole balance looks really beautiful.
Like “kaiga” (picture), some also have paintings of the Mt. Fuji, waves, the full moon, nishikigoi (carp) and ume (plum) tree.
New Furoshiki design:
In recent years, very diverse and innovative designs are also used besides traditional pictures and patterns. Experiments are getting carried out like unique animals and making the color of traditional karakusa patterns into pink instead of green, etc. There are also original furoshiki with print based on customised photographs and designs.
In addition, products have been devised by applying the principle of furoshiki wrapping not only to cloth but also shoes.
Author: Takuya Nagata. Amazon ProfileFollow @nagatackle
Novel writer, Creator. Graduated from UCA, the UK’s university. Discussed Japanese minimalism in the senior thesis. Founder of “MINIЯISM” (minirism), the art movement that contributes to the development of societies, such as ecology and lifestyle. Covered various fields as a writer in different parts of Europe, and later launched the knowledge hub “The Minimalist.”
Once travelled to Brazil and trained football at CFZ do Rio (Centro de Futebol Zico Sociedade Esportiva) in Rio de Janeiro. Played soccer for the Urawa Reds (Urawa Red Diamonds), one of the biggest football clubs in Japan, and toured Europe. Retired at a young age and voyaged alone to England. Established careers as journalist, football coach, consultant, etc. across Europe such as Spain. Knowledgeable in creative and technology fields as well. The founder of “Propulsive Football” (PROBALL), the world’s first-ever competitive mixed football, facilitating diversity and spirit for equal participation in society.