Furoshiki, Fukusa & Oriental Eyes

wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing

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Japanese Furoshiki – the multifunctional cloth
Furoshiki are Japanese wrapping cloths. Typically, the Japanese tie these cloths in a variety of very clever ways to wrap gifts and make bags and suitcases. When it comes to folding and tying, no one does it better than the Japanese.

The 2 pictures below are from an instructional video clip here

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You can see how to tie a bag like the one below in the Kakefuda Kyoto Famous Furoshiki Store’s  instructional video clip here

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Got a laptop like the one below to wrap or something the same shape? Check out the instructional video clip here

You can find those clips and more here.

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For printed instructions, check  out the following pictures. Click them for enlargements, which open in a new window…

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Here are some of my furoshiki

Two large, silk furoshiki

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Fukusa

Another item the Japanese use to cover gifts is the fukusa, like the ones shown below. Fukusa are also used at tea ceremonies. Traditionally in Japan, gifts were placed in a box or on a wooden or lacquered tray, over which a fukusa was draped. The choice of a fukusa appropriate to the occasion was an important part of the gift-giving ritual. The practice of covering a gift became widespread during the Edo or Tokugawa period (1615–1867).

Fukusa, unlike furoshiki, do not get tied, they are just laid over the item. The one above, on the left, is woven from gold lacquer coated thread, with a design of oshidori (madarin ducks) and ume (plum blossom) and the tassels are in the form of minokame (turtles with a trail of algae behind them). The type on the right is often given with wedding gifts; the kanji on it, called kotobuki, can be translated both as congratulations and as longevity.

The antique silk fukusa above has fabulous, deeply couched, golden embroidery in the centre, in the form of a mon (crest); this mon is sasa (bamboo). This will have been an extremely expensive fukusa when new.

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The fukusa above has flying cranes, which represent longevity and loyalty.

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These fukusa are in the form of wallets, the grey one is given to someone in mouring and the golden one would be given as a wedding gift. They would be given with money in them.

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You also get fukusa like the one shown in the picture above, with a little bone or plastic button, which often come complete with a lacquered tray inside. You sometimes see these ones with Buddhist scripture all over them.

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Oriental Eyes

I absolutely love the Japanese eyes, with their lovely almond shape and single eyelid but many Japanese people prefer the oxidental eyes with the double eyelid. They feel it makes the eyes look bigger. Sadly, this has led to many having cosmetic surgery to give them double eyelids that crease in the middle like oxidental ones, which also tends to reduce the lovely almond shape. A less drastic solution is the one you see below in the video clip, showing some fluid that is applied to the lower part of the eyelid, making it slightly rigid when it dries, forcing it to crease when the eye opens and therefore look like double eyelids. It gives the folding eyelid without destroying the lovely almond shape and it is not permanent. Assuming the stuff being applied is harmless, I hope this catches on more than cosmetic surgery, as it means they don’t lose their beautiful oriental eyes and can choose to go back to their natural look at any time. I’m not anti cosmetic surgery at all, I just love oriental eyes and envy those with them and I hate to think of anyone with them permanently destroying their own natural eye appearance.

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9 comments

  1. Thanks! Lots of wonderful information all in one place! What have you found out about older furoshiki with tassels on two opposite corners…how are they tied?
    I wonder if the makeup would firm up saggy geriatric eyelids. The stuff looks like Elmer’s Glue. Maybe I’ll give it a try. Their school glue is nontoxic and washes right off!

    1. Thank you for your kind comment.
      It is usually fukusa that have tassels on the corners. Fukusa are not tied, they are just laid over things, such as gifts.

      I’m not sure what Elmer’s glue is but it sounds like it is pva glue, a water soluble glue, which I assume is what is used in Japan. It may well have the skin tightening effect. I’ve yet to find anything that lessens my wrinkles but I keep trying.

      1. The furoshiki I am referring to are antique sashiko furoshiki that are like this one whose description I have copied off the internet: “The furoshiki has beautifully executed sashiko in each corner, almost spreading out into the middle. Two opposing corners have a fan design with braided thread tassels and the other two corners have sayagata (key fret) and a variation of matsukawa bishi (pine bark) within a grid.”
        I have many pictures showing these furoshiki having only two tassels, always in opposing corners.
        I have a couple of images of these tassels tied together in a traditional style but not detailed enough to see exactly what kind of knot is used. I can send you these images, if you like…there doesn’t seem to be a way I can include them here.
        (I will experiment with glue on saggy lids! Lol)

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