1200-Year History in Japanese Culture

1200-Year History in Japanese Culture

December 12, 2017

Did You Know? Furoshiki Has a 1200-Year History in Japanese Culture from Emperors to the Common Man!

Japan has an ancient culture, and the furoshiki is one of the tools that Japanese people have used as a part of their daily life for centuries. The furoshiki was first used an incredible 1200 years ago, where it was used to wrap and protect the Emperor’s treasure in Nara, in Japan’s Kansai region. Even today, modern Japanese people use this cloth to protect their own valuable objects!

For many Japanese, furoshiki represents a calming cultural ritual or caring for possessions by wrapping (tsutsumu) and tying (musubi) them way carefully. Even the Japanese words used to describe this process speak of the cultural value:

Tsutsumu means wrapping, but also refers to the unborn baby inside its mother; treating the unborn’s soul with love and respect—just as the contents of a furoshiki!

Musubi comes from the God Musubi, a deity of creation and living. Over time, this word came to also represent the word amulet (as protection from evil) and even marriage, connecting two people in a sacred bond.

The ancient traditions behind using the furoshiki cloth come with this cultural significance imbued in it; Japanese people using wrapping and tying their possessions—or even child—in a furoshiki are engaging in a timeless ceremony of love, care and respect.

When sending a gift to a friend or loved one, wrapping it inside a furoshiki also becomes a deeply thoughtful gift—especially when compared to using carelessly disposable wrapping paper!

In the modern era, Japanese people, like so many around the world, have become concerned about waste and becoming more eco-friendly. Combined with our small island’s dense population, mottainai (“do not waste”) has come to the forefront.

Just as a furoshiki can be reused over and over again for multiple purposes, Japanese people will also reuse their clothes: first as everyday wear, then as pajamas, then as nappies, and finally as a dust cloth—a true sign of the Japanese respect and care for the fragile state of the environment.