Sunday, December 14, 2008

Enviromentally Friendly Wrapping

A blogger I enjoy, Mary, wrote in a recent blog post about making and using cloth gift bags one year for Christmas, to avoid creating so much waste with gift bags and wrapping paper. I love her idea, which reflects something similar that used to be the tradition here in Japan.

Although these days, most Japanese use gift bags and tons of tissue paper, the old way involved using a large square of lovely silk cloth. The cloth, called a furoshiki (pronounced fu-rosh-key), often had different patterns on either side. On very formal occasions, very elegant, heavily embroidered furoshiki were draped over gifts borne and presented on trays or pillows. The furoshiki were whisked away *by the giver* to reveal the gift.

On less formal occasions, the gift(s) would be wrapped in the furoshiki, with the ends tied in decorative ways, There are many, MANY different "furoshiki folds" to wrap different objects, including specific folds for bottles, folds for melons, folds for long, thin objects, folds for short, fat objects, etc. The giver always keeps the furoshiki, and the recipient would never dream of keeping it.

I would love to use furoshiki as gift wrapping, but I am not sure I could ever figure out how to politely let the recipients of my gifts know that they must return the silk cloth! These days, the furoshiki is most often used to tie up one's bento lunch box, to carry it (and attendant washcloth, chopsticks, etc.) to work or school.

In the spirit of this idea, for Christmas this year, I'm thinking of giving some of my family members and friends books (in Japanese, but with lovely and easily-understood photos and diagrams) on how to use a furoshiki, along with a lovely large silk furoshiki, in different pretty patterns. I wonder what change we could effect?


At 12/15/2008 11:23 AM, Anonymous MaryP said...

Since you're in Japan, you've probably seen this how-to page, put out by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment.

I found out about furoshiki (and the links, above) when I was writing for a wedding website, and thought they were lovely -- the perfect mix of beauty and practicality. Simpler to make than the drawstring bags I was thinking of, too!


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