Furoshiki is used for packing clothes or accessories and wrapping gifts. Its use has expanded to include wrapping a little bit of everything.
Although this original gift wrap has lost popularity to handbags, it remains an essential part of traditional Japanese culture and is still often used to wrap gifts in the most environmentally friendly and sustainable way possible.
With furoshiki, turn your gift wrapping into a gift package in itself!
You can use it for this purpose or simply as a decorative element (hanging on the wall, as table linen, etc.) or as a fashion accessory.
Its existence probably dates back to the Nara era (710-794 A.D.), when it was used to protect valuable objects. It was once called tsutsumi, to indicate "packing". It was used at that time to preserve the imperial treasure. During the Heian era, this cloth was mainly used to wrap clothes and was called koromozutsumi, which literally means "clothing wrapping".
It was given the name hirazutsumi (平包, "flat pack") 400 years later to indicate a flat pack. The simplicity of packing one's belongings in a cloth became commonplace as a result of looting during the many wars or during pilgrimages.
The long days of work in the fields at the time required the ability to carry and tie one's belongings, which the folded cloth allowed.
The name, meaning "(something) spread out in the bath" (風呂に敷く（もの, furo ni shiku (mono)), originates from the Muromachi era and then became widespread during the Edo era, continuing to the present day.
It was then used to take necessary things or pack clothes to the public baths (銭湯, sentō). It is possible that the use of furoshiki expanded as a means of transportation, protection, and decoration for merchants' products.
Attached to high society, this symbol was reused by merchants of the time to better sell their products. It had become an advertising medium, but above all, it was becoming widespread.
Since the post-war period, furoshiki had been slowly falling into disuse in Japan, largely since the advent of the plastic bag.
However, in an environmental concern, the Ministry of Environment and Japanese ecological associations are trying to bring them back in vogue. It becomes the symbol of mottainai, a Japanese concept of rejecting waste.
In 2018, the Paris City Hall organizes a big event as part of the Paris-Tokyo Tandem, on an idea of Yuriko Koike, governor of Tokyo. A giant furoshiki, designed by Atelier Tsuyoshi Tane Architects (ATTA), is installed on the square in front of the city hall.