Magazine article Sunset

In Japan, It's the Wrap That Counts

Magazine article Sunset

In Japan, It's the Wrap That Counts

Article excerpt

How to elevate even the most common gift to the realm of fine art

TO THE JAPANESE, GIFT wrapping, or origata, embodies the art of gentle concealment. The wrapping is almost as important as the gift itself, not a last-minute, slap-dash job with an odd end of commercial wrapping paper that's an inch shy of meeting in the back. And forget about the tired trick of curling the ribbon with the edge of a scissors blade. In Japan, to give a gift is to wrap one's heart.

The Japanese prize intricate wrappings, complex folded papers, and ornately knotted cording. The techniques that are used to produce these decorative results are grounded in ancient beliefs. For example, mizuhiki (dyed paper cords) are more than a device to hold paper together. Their symbolic function is to prevent any impurities from entering the package.

While many Japanese wrapping techniques are as intricate as origami (and require similarly complicated diagrams to puzzle through), others can be managed easily.


Wrapping with cloth (furoshiki). With furoshiki, you can wrap almost anything--from a box to a ball. All you need is a piece of fabric and a refresher on how to tie a good Girl Scout knot: right over left, left over right.

It need not be expensive, either. Use a $2 bandanna (it costs the same as a sheet of fancy wrapping paper) or a silky scarf. The secret: the wrap must be square; a rectangle won't work. Handkerchiefs, table napkins, scarves, and even small tablecloths make great wraps. Practice on scrap paper the approximate size of the real cloth you'll be using. After a while, you'll get a better sense of size and where to fold.

To wrap, place the gift on the wrong side of the fabric, centered between east and west corners and slightly toward the south. Flip the southern flap over the object, tucking it under the object if necessary. Bring the north corner over the top so that it hangs loose over the side of the object (the most decorative or presentable corner should be used as the north comer). Then bring the east and west comers over the top of the object and knot.

Wrapping a bottle. Another popular wrapping method is to use several layers of tissue paper at once. …

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