Furoshiki (風呂敷) are traditional Japanese wrapping cloths traditionally used to wrap and/or to transport goods. Consideration is placed on the aesthetics of furoshiki, which may feature hemmed edges, thicker and more expensive materials, and hand-painted designs; however, furoshiki are much less formal than fukusa, and are not generally used to present formal gifts.
While they come in a variety of sizes, they are typically square. Traditional materials include silk or cotton, but modern furoshiki are available in synthetic materials like rayon, nylon, or polyester.
The first furoshiki cloths were tsutsumi ("wrapping"), used during the Nara period as protection for precious temple objects. By the Heian period, cloths called hiratsusumi (平裏/平包), meaning "flat wrap", were used to wrap clothes. These cloths came to be known as furoshiki during the Muromachi period; the term furoshiki (literally "bath spread", from furo (風呂, "bath"), and shiki (敷, "spread")) is said to have come about after high-ranking visitors to bathhouses packed their belongings in cloth decorated with their family crest.
They became popular in the Edo period with increased access to bathhouses by the general public; moreover, cloths with family crests grew in demand as common people gained the right to have family crests during the Meiji period.
Modern furoshiki may be made from fabrics of various thicknesses and price points, including silk, chirimen, cotton, rayon, and nylon. The cloth is typically square, and while sizes vary, the most common are 45 by 45 centimetres (18 in × 18 in) and 70 by 70 centimetres (28 in × 28 in).
Furoshiki usage declined in the post-war period, in large part due the proliferation of paper and plastic bags available to shoppers. In recent years, however, it has seen a renewed interest as environmental protection has become a greater concern. In 2006, Japanese Minister of the Environment, Yuriko Koike, showcased a specially-designed furoshiki cloth to promote environmental awareness. In 2020, The Observer reported a growing interest in furoshiki in the UK, in part as a response to its perceived greater environmental sustainability compared to traditional single-use wrapping paper.