If you have visited Japan, chances are that you have seen many kimonos and yukatas; people wearing them, especially in cities such as Kyoto, or during a summer festival. You have seen them in shops, some of them incredibly expensive, others more affordable and tempting to purchase as a souvenir or just as a colorful fashion statement.
However, whenever I browsed through the kimono and yukata section of any department store or second hand shop, I was faced with a recurring question: Will I ever be able to wear this once I am out of Japan?
What I adore most about kimono and its summery sister, the yukata, is their gorgeous colors and patterns. They range from subdued discreet to full on vibrant and loud. From geographic designs, over lush floral designs, to traditional, more simplistic patterns. But as mentioned above, for me the question of wearability always arose whenever I pondered whether or not I should buy one of these incredible pieces of clothing.
Would my gorgeous kimono/yukata just end up in a closet, never to be worn properly? But didn't I want to take some of that vibrancy of the kimono and Japanese traditional clothing back with me?
If you find yourself in a similar situation and you adore the colors and patterns of kimono/yukata, but can't afford to invest in one of those, don't have enough luggage space or simply aren't sure if you will ever be able to showcase your purchase, I might have just the solution for you: it comes in the form of an seemingly over-sized handkerchief. At least that was my very first impression when I was gifted my first furoshiki by a dear friend on my birthday.
Despite my first impression, the furoshiki is actually a type of wrapping cloth; during the Edo period (1603 - 1868), the furoshiki was used in public baths to wrap one's clothes up whilst enjoying a soak in the water. Being a little multi-talent, the furoshiki soon became a form of carrying tool; whether it was a bentobox or your daily shopping.
With the introduction of plastic bags and other forms of disposable packaging, the furoshiki lost its position as the go-to tool for anything that needed to be transported or carried. But despite all this, the furoshiki is still around and is now often used as a versatile handbag.
I personally love the versatility of the furoshiki; how I can change the style of it with just a few different knots. And that I can add a bit of the Kimono's vibrancy and colorfulness to my look, without having to commit to the full outfit. They can be tied in many different ways (usually when you buy a furoshiki, you will be given a little instruction pamphlet) and also be customized with accessories, such as bag handles or wooden rings.
Furoshiki come in different price ranges, depending on the fabric, the size and quality, and they also come in two variations: reversible furoshiki, which have a pattern on both sides and therefore can be used with either side of the fabric showing, and non-reversible furoshiki which only have one side of the fabric patterned.
You can usually find shops that sell furoshiki in any department store that also sells kimono, but especially in Kyoto you can find many smaller shops that sell everything from kimono, over furoshikis to hair accessories and zori.
So if you are still looking for that traditional Japanese souvenir or gift, that you can use even when you are back from your Japan adventure and that will bring some of that vibrant, gorgeous color and Japanese flair into your daily life, give the furoshiki a try!
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