The Ministry of the Environment in Japan even publish a How to use Furoshiki page on their website!

Furoshiki: Japanese traditions

Photograph showing furoshiki indigo fabric packages

Furoshiki are traditional Japanese wrapping cloths made of squares of silk or cotton. The custom of furoshiki wrapping dates back to Nara period, when cloths were used to wrap and transport precious temple objects.

The term furoshiki originated during the Muromachi period when the Shogun Askikaga built an onsen (a traditional Japanese bath-house) and invited the lords to visit. The royal guests packed their belongings in silk cloths decorated with their family crests.

During the Meiji period common folk were allowed family crests, and furoshiki grew in popularity. In the Edo period public bath-houses (sento) became widespread and furoshiki was used as a mat to stand on while undressing, and a wrapping cloth to carry the clothes. The term furoshiki is a combination of furo meaning bath and shiki meaning to spread. (The Japanese equivalent of an Aussie standing on their towel in the beach carpark.)

In 2018, an exhibtion took place in Paris. The installation, Furoshiki Paris, featured a giant, larger-than-life gift box wrapped in furoshiki in the centre of the Place de l’Hotel de Ville. This is a photograph of two lion statues holding furoshiki bags.

Furoshiki wasn’t just confined to the bath-house. Furoshiki became a way for merchants to carry their goods. Furoshiki usage declined after the introduction of paper and plastic bags to shoppers in Japan. But interest in furoshiki has exploded over the last couple of years as more people around the world forgo giftwrapping in favour of zero waste alternatives.

Furoshiki celebrates the Japanese principle of mottanai—a sense of regret over wasting anything. Making the most of the Covid lockdown, Catherine, the owner of Shizuka Ryokan, continued Shizuka’s mottanai quest by repurposing old yukata guest robes. Catherine saved squares cut from the cotton robes to make furoshiki. Shizuka chef Yuchan then used these DIY furoshiki to wrap take away meals.

Further Reading:

Get inspired watching a video of a staff member at Kakefuda Kyoto, a famous furoshiki store in Kyoto, demonstrating the different ways to fold a 105cm square of fabric. The video even claims that Mick Jagger purchased a furoshiki from the store.

Download an infographic from the Japanese Ministry of the Environment depicting 14 ways to fold a furoshiki.

The Ministry of the Environment in Japan even publish a How to use Furoshiki page on their website!

Sashiko: Japanese traditions

At Shizuka Ryokan we have an insatiable appetite for Japanese traditions. Whether it be Japanese cookery, Boro stitching, Sumi-e painting, Calligraphy, Ikebana, Seasonal Yoga Retreats, Sake tasting, Furoshiki, Japanese gift wrapping, Wagashi, Origami, Mizuhiki, Temari, Japanese book binding, Japanese tea ceremony, Kokedama, Kimono wearing, or SAORI weaving–you will find a workshop at Shizuka.


On Sunday, February 10, we were thrilled to host Leanne O’Sullivan from Kimono House for a 1-Day Sashiko Intensive.

Sashiko is a form of embroidery that originated in Japan during the Edo period (1615-1868). Originally, sashiko stitching was used to reinforce points of wear or to darn tears in clothing with patches, making the clothing more durable and warmer. (Japan has a culture of reusing and recycling, and a word, mottanai, which conveys a sense of regret over waste.) By the Mejii era (1868-1912) sashiko was a common form of winter work in farming communties, when it was too cold to work outdoors.

Sashiko evolved to become a decorative quilting and embroidery stitch that features white cotton thread on traditional indigo blue cloth. The word sashiko means ‘little stabs’ or ‘little pierce.’ There are two main styles of sashiko: moyozashi, in which geometric patterns are created with long lines of running stitches—and hitomezashi, where the pattern emerges from the alignment of single stitches on a grid.

The artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), published New Forms for Design in 1824, and many of these designs are used in sashiko patterns today. Sashiko stitching depicts things such as Yarai (bamboo fence),  Uroko (fish scales), Amime (fish nets), Kaki no Hana (persimmon flower) and Hirayama-Michi (mountain passes).

About the teacher

Leanne first visited Japan in the 1980s, where she lived and worked for 5 years. It was during this time that she became interested in Japanese textiles, and the kimono in particular.

“Whilst living in Japan I was constantly inspired by the extreme contrasts around me—everywhere I looked there seemed to be a mix of traditional and contemporary co-existing beautifully.”

This contrast is evident in Leanne’s pieces, which combine new and vintage fabric, and traditional and contemporary design. These days, Leanne runs Kimono House Japanese Textiles & Craft —where she trades Japanese textiles and craft kits, teaches workshops and exhibits her collection of Japanese textiles.

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