Furoshiki is a culture that embodies the characteristics of Japan very well. Other cultures in Japan are related to furoshiki as well.
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Furoshiki & Japan
The root of fukusa was originally furoshiki covering on the top or wrapping to protect the box containing the important articles. It expresses courtesy and regard for people by wrapping gifts. It can be said that it is very Japanese style to cherish manners and respect. Also when wrapping articles in furoshiki and giving them as gifts, it has a meaning to convey people the feelings.
The ones with relatively small dimensions are written as fukusa (帛紗). When wrapping noshi envelopes of ceremonial occasions, wrap in the front left for bereavement (such as a funeral), and wrap in the front right for a celebration (such as a wedding ceremony). This same way of manner applies even when wrapping articles in furoshiki. However, since it is used in weddings, funerals, etc., scrupulous attention is paid to the manners for fukusa. In recent years, there is also “Kinpu-fukusa” which has a shape like an envelope and specialises in wrapping noshi envelopes.
It is possible to use splendid furoshiki for fukusa and it is difficult to understand the exact differences between both. However, in general, what we usually use in daily life is called furoshiki, and wrapping money and articles on special occasions such as ceremonies is called fukusa. Fukusa often wrap in small objects such as kinpu, and they tend to be smaller than furoshiki.
Fukusa is also used as a tool in the tea ceremony. We call a bag carrying small articles needed in the tea ceremony fukusa-basami, and there are tools such as fukusa and kobukusa which is even smaller than fukusa. Fukusa is an important item for the tea ceremony which respects etiquette.
Furoshiki is a square flat cloth, and origami which is unique to Japanese culture also has a square shape. You fold a piece of square paper to create various things. Cranes and hearts, shuriken and helmets, ships and planes, tree leaves and autumn leaves, menko and balloons, cameras and pakupaku, boars, rabbits and so on, there are as many ways to fold as the number of imaginations.
Like furoshiki, there is Japan’s representative cloth culture, which is kimono. Wafuku, the Japanese traditional costume, is sometimes called a kimono, and this also has features similar to furoshiki.
Whereas Western clothes are sewn three-dimensionally according to the shape of the body, kimono are sewn two-dimensionally. The furoshiki is also a two-dimensional cloth.
When making kimono, people make the best use of the square cloth of the roll, tanmono and make a straight cut, so there is almost no part of the cloth (patch) that is wasted. Fabrics were made by hand-weaving and very expensive in the past, so the spirit of not wasting is alive in wasai (kimono-making).
The Western clothes must be customised for each person’s body shape to make although it differs in scale. On the other hand, if you have just 1 kimono, it can fit a very wide range of body shapes. Even if your body shape changes with eating habits change and aging, you can adjust your waistline with an obi (belt). So it is not unusual to inherit it until the grandchild’s generation because you can wear it for many years.
Yukata which is positioned as summer clothes, sleepwear and everyday wear is basically made with the same idea and is more simplified than the kimono.
Kimono which is planar, can be used very extensively, and has no waste, has common features with furoshiki and it can be said both are indeed Japanese.
Furoshiki, which is deeply rooted in Japanese society, appears frequently in manga as well, which is another representative culture of Japan.
In Fujiko F. Fujio’s SF manga “Doraemon,” there is the item, “Time furoshiki.” For the things wrapped by the front side of this 1 square metre furoshiki, the time goes fast. On the contrary, when wrapped by the back side, time goes backward. It restores what is broken and it rejuvenates when putting onto a person.
Also, a typical thief appearing in a Japanese manga carries a bulging ooburoshiki (big furoshiki) of the green karakusa pattern. Thief operation needs to be cleared up quickly so that people don’t notice. Furoshiki appears in such crucial and vital scenes. This is also a piece of evidence for the high functionality of furoshiki that can wrap many items quickly and efficiently to carry.
Metaphor: “Spreading the ooburoshiki (big furoshiki)”
Ooburoshiki (big furoshiki) has a very large size when it is spread, and you rarely wrap such big things in reality.
Hence, for such as magnificent plans that are actually difficult to realise, things that have only exaggerated appearances although it’s scanty in content, and blown-up stories, we came to say “spreading the ooburoshiki (big furoshiki)” as a metaphor.
Furoshiki is very environmentally friendly, eliminating waste. When you feel something wasteful, such as food and talent, you often say “mottainai” in Japan.
In the advertising of the Manga Nihon Mukashi Banashi (Japan’s old tales) series for the Advertising Council, a radish and a carrot that were left uneaten become “Mottainai-obake” (Wasteful ghosts), which appear on the bedside and mutter “mottainai.” “Mottainai” is the philosophical word of ancient Japanese that means “what originally should be is missing,” and now it is still used everyday. In other words, “Mottainai spirit” is the philosophy that has been transmitted in Japan from ancient times.
Author: Takuya Nagata. Amazon ProfileFollow @nagatackle
A novel writer and 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. Later opened 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 a journalist, football coach, consultant, etc. across Europe such as Spain. The founder of “Propulsive Football” (PROBALL), the world’s first-ever competitive mixed football, facilitating diversity and spirit for equal participation in society.
Knowledgeable in creative and technology fields as well. Launched the SPACE Culture & Entertainment hub “The Space-Timer 0.”