« The Mouse | Main | Thank You »


After posting yesterday's entry, I suddenly wondered why "furoshiki" is so called. "Furo" is "bath," and "shiki" is "something to spread." Then, it's like "something to spread in the bathroom." But, thinking of the actual use of a furoshiki, what can it have to do with bathrooms?

So I searched the Net, and sure enough, got the answer.

Furoshikis were originally used for wiping one's feet after bathing - spread on the floor like a bathmat. In the Edo period (17th to mid-19th centuries), people frequently used public bathhouses (sento). They went there with their towels and something necessary wrapped in a furoshiki, putting their clothes in it during bathing, and dried themselves standing on it after that.

Interesting. The words whose original meanings we don't usually care about have their own histories. I would often go to public bathhouses with my friends when I was a college student. I can't remember what I carried with me when going there, though it's certain that was not a furoshiki.


Public bathhouses?

Kiyo. I'm so glad that you posted this. Not because I didn't know the etymology of furoshiki (I did), but because you didn't. I've always assumed that in Japanese history of words are more apparent, because of the way kanji is taught and the distinction made between on and kun readings.

Whenever I use the word "photograph", I think about writing with light--but I know I'm in the minority. A few people might associate Mr. Baker's name with the trade, but who, anymore, remembers what the Coopers and the Fletchers did?

So I shouldn't be surprised that it is the same in Japanese, but I still am. Now I'm wondering, where did I learn the meaning of "furoshiki"? Ah...here's the explanation in "Gift Wrapping: Creative Ideas from Japan" (Kunio Ekiguchi).

"A furoshiki is a square piece of material used to wrap up and carry objects of all shapes and sizes. Its corners are drawn up and knotted into a makeshift handle..."furo" means bath and "shiki" means rug or mat, thus a furoshiki was originally a type of bath mat...After his bath, the bather dressed standing on the furoshiki and wrapped his damp kimono in it to carry home from the bath. This early bath mat developed into the modern furoshiki, a multi-purpose carryall."
"The word furoshiki probably came into use sometime between 1688 and 1710, but Japanese people were wrapping their belongings in square pieces of cloth much earlier."

Yeah, tatroyer, public bathhouses. Not a place to change your clothes, but a place to bathe. The idea of taking a bath with other people may sound weird to you. What do you think?

M, you got me there. ;) I should say I don't have a keen awareness of the etymology of kanji words in everyday life. Interestingly, I think in kanji, in hiragana, and in katakana - all differently depending on the word. And as for "furoshiki," seemingly I thought in katakana. A Japanese learners like you always gives me good inspiration for my mother tongue.

Yes, that does sound weird. So many questions?
(Sorry if these questions sound stupid)

I am assuming same-sex bathhouses.
Clothing on or off?
What does something like this cost?
Are they located all over Japan?

I guess I enjoy my personal "space bubble" here in the US. Don't get me wrong, we have shower rooms, but they are for the swimming pool, gym class, etc... some activity is attached to them that will require getting clean, but not just for the sole purpose of bathing, unless you are talking about spas - but even then.

Ok, tatroyer, I'll blog about public bathhouses in Japan tomorrow. So, stay tuned. ;) And if you still have questions, feel free to drop a line.