History of Furoshiki

Uses of furoshiki is depicted in Ukiyoe: Odenma-cho Daimaru Gofukuya by Utagawa Hiroshige (1852)

Furoshiki has been used to wrap, transport and cover things for hundreds of years.


Oldest record of furoshiki dates back to Nara period (710-794 A.D.), although it was not called "furoshiki" yet. 

Linen clothes were used to wrap treasures and valuables in shrines and temples.

Furoshiki literally means “bath spread”, with the word “furo” meaning bath, and “shiki” meaning spread.

It is believed that the name ‘Furoshiki’ was established sometime around Muromachi period (14~16th century) when high-ranking visitors to a bathhouse wrapped their belongings in piece of fabric often decorated with a family crest.

During Edo period (17~19th century), public bathhouses became more accessible to commoners, and furoshiki became even more widely used. 

People brought furoshiki to public bathhouse, spread it on the floor and took their clothes off, and wrapped personal belongings while taking a bath.



Furoshiki was used not only in bathhouses, but in many situations of everyday life. 

In Japan, where people always lived in fear of earthquakes and fire, the readiness to evacuate with minimal essentials was crucial. Many people lined a drawer with furoshiki and placed valuables and basic necessities on top, so they could quickly wrap up these things to flee disasters at a moment's notice. 

After World War II, with an influx of western culture, use of furoshiki gave way to the convenience of disposable bags and wrapping paper. Once used in everyday scenarios, furoshiki seemed to have faded as a thing of a past.

As we crossed into the 21st century, massive use of plastic products and pollutions as well as deforestations became one of the major environmental concerns.

Naturally, furoshiki as an eco-friendly alternative started to gain popularity again.

In 2006, in effort to reduce wastes, Department of Environment in Japan started to endorse uses of furoshiki in “Mottainai Furoshiki” campaign.

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