A group of women in Sapporo are helping to spread the art of traditional wrapping by teaching young mothers and foreign students the many different uses for a furoshiki.

A furoshiki is a square cloth that has long been used in Japan for wrapping, storing and carrying items. It comes in a huge variety of patterns, from dots to arabesques.

Depending on how the cloth is knotted, it can become a bag or even a handy tool in the event of a disaster.

“I want to create ties among people through furoshiki,” said Sakura Tomoda, 38, the head of the group, Musubiya Yuiku.

Last October, seven mothers and their children participated in a workshop it held in Sapporo. Tomoda and Noriko Saito, a 54-year-old guest instructor, taught different ways to wrap objects using furoshiki.

The mothers learned ohinamaki, a way to wrap a baby, as well as how to store plastic bottles. They were also taught how to cover a plastic bag with the fabric to fashion a makeshift bucket for use in the event of a disaster.

Nachiko Murata, a 36-year-old illustrator who joined the workshop with her 4-month-old son, said she has gained a new appreciation for the humble furoshiki. “Through knotting, it can easily be turned into a nursing cover or a baby sling.”

Tomoda, who was already familiar with the different uses to which a furoshiki could be put, started the workshops in October 2014 after she gave birth to a daughter. She was motivated by the sight of her friends struggling to carry baby gear.

“Child-rearing is the same old routine of preparing meals and doing the laundry. There’s no sense of accomplishment, we don’t get credit for it, and we’re not in a position to complain,” she said.

But Tomoda saw that young mothers felt a sense of achievement from learning how to use furoshiki, giving her confidence that what she was doing was going to succeed.

Tomoda holds workshops on furoshiki almost every month and her courses at a university in Sapporo for students from countries such as China and Britain are also well-received.

“I hope to pass on this time-honored Japanese wisdom to young people, Japanese and foreign, and spread smiles,” Tomoda said.

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