Left: Furoshiki how-to (round object) by Kakefuda, a Furoshiki production workshop and retail location in Kyoto. Top: Furoshiki diagram produced by the Japanese government as part of 3R initiative in Tokyo. Bottom: Kakefuda Furoshiki-wrapped case of beer (See? It looks completely genteel!).


Okay. That thing -  where it's, like, fulfilling to get dressed - as in, well-dressed? As in - you make clothing hit the total note and trick* of inspiration, and you bring it, as they say, channeling Jackie (or the Bronte sisters or Anna Nicole or whoever) in an ingenious, seemingly-offhanded tuck or twist?

That's the thing I mean. Only - I get that same - creative gratification- every time I wrap a present.

It's a sensible enough connection - both endeavors involve folding, pleating, tying - both obscure some kind of content in order to more advantageously display it - and, ultimately, both require a series of purposeful, intellectual acts which, when executed, convey some kind of indirect, ephemeral message -

- and it's completely unoriginal. The Japanese already thought of it, like, in the XVIIth century. Plus - in the meantime, they also turned it into this elegant discipline - an art form, really, that's as practical and relevant as it is exquisite.

It is Furoshiki.

A  furoshiki by itself is just a fabric rectangle or square, sized to fit its cargo - groceries, clothes, babies, parcels, swag (sorry)  - and used to wrap it up, repeatedly, in a stylish way.

Furoshiki, though - the thing - is more.  It's a way of folding the fabric around an object to make it portable and beautiful. In her NYT article, The Japanese Gift for Wrapping, Terry Trucco says, "Wrapping is important in Japan, an indication of politeness, dignity and an added note of respect ...wrappings are also meant to conform with the value of the gift and the formality of the situation."

"The furoshiki is a sign of Japanese refinement,"  says  to Jeanne-Aelia Desparmet-Hart, an interior designer .  "To wrap an object in a pretty Furoshiki is to give importance to the object; and it's even more true when it holds a present."

Five years ago,  the Japanese government also recognized the eco-potential of Furoshiki. Ms. Yuriko Koike, former Minister of the Environment, has created the Mottainai  Furoshiki as a symbol of Japanese culture, and as a call to reduce waste.  "The utilization of this Mottainai Furoshiki will contribute to reducing household waste from plastic bags," Koike says.   

"It would be wonderful, if the furoshiki, as a symbol of traditional Japanese culture, could provide an opportunity for us to reconsider the possibilities of a sound-material cycle society. "

In other words, it's totally possible to be both charming and ecologically kind. Furoshiki  can easily be incorporated into the holiday routine - anybody can make one out of anything. Granted, for Americans, it's less a cultural statement than it is an act of discernment - but the idea still rocks. Some US retailers are catching on - Viva Terra, for examples, offers a red Furoshiki in Dupioni silk ($15-$30).

Tsutsumi, wrapping with paper, is also an option - it's a little like oragami, and eliminates the need for adhesive tape.

*To snag a phrase from Henry James's 1884 essay, The Art of Fiction