Q&A with Tomoko Kakita, author of Furoshiki

Q&A with Tomoko Kakita, author of Furoshiki

What got you into start spreading the Furoshiki culture?

It was my sister’s dream and nature that inspired me to create Tsutsumi: my Furoshiki brand.

I lost one of my sisters in 2006. She was a joyful, energetic and beautiful Japanese landscape designer, who loved nature and wanted to plant as many trees as possible in her lifetime.

I wanted to design a product that would inspire people to act responsibly towards the environment and to encourage them to reconnect with nature.

This is my way of continuing my sister’s mission.

When I was going through a difficult time in my life, I started visiting a heath near to where I live. One sunny day, I was lying on the grass and I gazed up at the sky. It was such a beautiful day and I felt grounded. I was thinking about my sister who sadly passed away – she would have enjoyed the moment if she were there with me. I was also full of appreciation for Mother Earth; she gives us so much, even though we keep taking from her. I wanted to give something back to her. That was the moment when my Furoshiki journey started.

What are Tsutsumi and Furoshiki?

Tsutsumi 包 in Japanese means ‘wrap’.

The shape of the ancient kanji for Tsutsumi replicates the form of a pregnant woman. The pregnant form enfolds what is most precious, a baby, and the idea of wrapping something precious extends to the act of enfolding an object in a square piece of beautiful fabric.

The more common word for this Japanese wrapping cloth is ‘Furoshiki’. Its use goes back some 1200 years.

In Japan, there exists the beautiful culture of wrapping treasured items, gifts and belongings in Furoshiki. In the past, people used Furoshiki to carry trade products for transportation, with the idea that you can use it again and again. The use of Furoshiki has, however, faded since the 1970s due to the introduction of plastic and paper bags, wrapping paper and luggage.

Tsutsumi is the product name for the Furoshiki wrapping cloths which I design. They are made in Japan using a traditional hand-printed method by skilled craftsmen and can be used for wrapping gifts, sundries and can even be worn as a face covering for a stylish look.

My ambition is to encourage those who own a Tsutsumi to use it with love and care so that it lasts for a long time. Remember the message of this product: that it is to be used to inspire people to act responsibly towards the environment, to help them to reduce waste, and to encourage them to reconnect with nature. It’s important that this message is passed along. The Tsutsumi may even come back to you again after many people have reused it in different ways.

Photo Credit: Stephanie McLeod

How did you learn to use Furoshiki?

I’ve used it to wrap my lunch box since I was small. The Furoshiki culture faded since my parent’s generation. However, my mother still uses Furoshiki to organise inside wardrobe drawers.

How easy is it to learn to use Furoshiki?

It is very easy. There are no right or wrong ways. It is like creating artwork when wrapping a gift. There are limitless ways of using Furoshiki and it’s a great way to use your creativity.

It’s useful to master a basic square knot. Once the square knot is tied, it will never come loose, but it is still quick and easy to untie. There are good illustrations of how to make a square knot and untie it in the book.

How can Furoshiki reduce waste?

It will certainly reduce single-use wrapping paper waste if people start using Furoshiki for gift wrapping. It is also memorable, stylish and reusable.

I always carry 70x70cm Furoshiki with me for organising inside my bag. I put small items in a Furoshiki bag so that it’s easy to find what I need. I also use Furoshiki as a shopping bag whenever I go grocery shopping.

Where do you get your inspirations for your Furoshiki design?

It comes from the beauty of nature. For example, the colours of the sky are never the same. The shapes of leaves are all different. The natural world has healing power. I want to celebrate the beauty of it by expressing it in my designs.

What do you do to relax?

Shinrinyoku 森林浴 forest bathing. Walking through a grass field with bare feet. Practice yoga and deep breathing. Take a long bath. Cook.

If you could choose a superpower to have, what would it be and why?

To be able to regenerate, heal the damaged nature and make a harmonious world. Because without a healthy planet earth, we can’t thrive.


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