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Furoshiki souvenirs in Kyoto, Japan: some assembly required.

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A Made in Japan Souvenir: Furoshiki

Furoshiki cloths have a long tradition in Kyoto, dating back over a thousand years, and have always been a popular Japanese souvenir. The best way to describe Furoshiki is an eco-friendly cross between origami and wrapping paper. They can be used to create handbags of different sizes or wrappings for things like gifts and wine bottles.

furoshiki at kakefudaIf you google furoshiki, you’ll come across images like these colorful handbags,

furoshiki gift wrap kyotoor beautifully wrapped presents like this. But the photos can be misleading. That present didn’t wrap itself.

Kyoto Japan fukoshi wrapping cloth kakebanaA furoshiki in its natural state is no more than a plain square or rectangular piece of fabric. This souvenir is 100% DIY, no instructions included.

Although I loved the finished Japanese furoshiki products, I am challenged in the arts and crafts department and feared that a traditional furoshiki would end up stuffed in a drawer somewhere, never to be seen again. So for my Japanese souvenir I went with a less traditional model– a long, rectangular shape that easily serves as a makeshift scarf, no folding or tying required.


Camswitzer’s, video, used with permission here.

Since my trip, I’ve learned there are many web resources devoted to the art of furoshiki, including a series of books based on “wrapagami” and even step-by-step you tube videos. As an experiment, I followed the video above to see if a non-crafty person could master the art of furoshiki wrapping by tying a basic handbag.

Since I didn’t actually buy a square furoshiki, I used a square scarf I already had.

how to tie a hermes scarf into bag
how to tie a hermes scarf into bagFirst, I took a corner of the scarf and tied a knot about 5 inches in. I then continued to tie knots on each of the 4 corners.

how to tie a hermes scarf into handbag

how to tie a hermes scarf into bagOnce all four sides were knotted, I tied two corners together on each side.

how to tie a hermes scarf into bagVoila, my “furoshiki” actually does appear to resemble a handbag. Next time, I’ll buy the real thing. The stiff cotton of the furoshiki gives the bag a more sturdy shape than my floppy-ish silk bag here.

Any furoshiki design masters out there?  Share your creations in the comments below!

Japanese souvenir Shopping details:
You can buy furoshiki all over Kyoto.  Some of the recommended shops include below:
Raak: various locations around Kyoto, all made in Japan.  I bought my Raak “scarf” from a street vendor in Arashiyama.
KakefudaKyoto (made in Japan), Higashiyama, Higashioji-dori, Komonzen-agaru, Takabatake-cho 609 (京都市東山区東大路通古門前上ル高畑町609)

Looking for more posts about Souvenir Shopping in Japan?  You may want to read these next:
Souvenir shopping Kyoto, Japan. Why Japanese customer service is the world’s best.
Kyoto, Japan. Don’t slip on this Imperial era shopping street or you’ll be dead in 2 to 3 years.
Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto, Japan. The road to spiritual enlightenment is paved with shops.
Guide to Souvenir shopping for made in Japan kimonos and yukatas: what to buy
Kyoto, Arashiyama, Japan. The trifecta of scenery, sights and shopping.
Souvenir shopping Kyoto, Japan. Tourist Tat Alert Cute edition.
Souvenir shopping Kyoto, Japan. Yes, gift please.
Kyoto, Japan. Shopping Fail: Philosopher’s Path

Credits: All photos by Souvenir Finder copyright 2013 except for Creative Commons licenses as indicated. Attributions available by clicking on photo in addition to attributions repeated below:

#1  Kakebana / CC BY-SA 2.0
#2 Atelier Furoshiki 6 / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
#3  Local designs – reinterpretations of traditional japanese patterns / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0

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