Japanese Gift Wrapping

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Written and media by Momoka Murata.


Did you go Black Friday shopping during Thanksgiving break?  Have you prepared for Christmas?

For those who have bought Christmas presents or those who are going to, this article will introduce you to a special Japanese gift-wrapping technique.

Print Noshi wrapping
Photo by Momoka M

Before showing a wrapping technique video, I will explain why Japanese people wrap presents in a unique way. Japanese present wrapping is part of a custom, which has different meanings by the direction of the wrapping paper and visually represents the sender’s feelings on different occasions.

First, this wrapping technique creates space between wrapping paper, and this space shows the sender’s purpose. If the space is upward, this shows the gift is for celebration or a usual purpose. If the space is downward, that is showing the sender is giving the gift for an occasion related to someone’s death, such as funeral or death anniversary. Ultimately, the reason for wrapping in any of these ways is to wish the receiver happiness. The upward technique wishes the receiver’s happiness will come in from the space, and downward technique shows that the receiver’s sad accident will go out from space.

Death-related Kakegami
Photo by Momoka M

The next difference is the type of wrapping paper. Not only is wrapping paper for a gift box, but also it is common to cover with another paper called “kakegami”. People write the purpose of the gift and their name to clarify which gift is from whom, and to not mix it up with someone else’s gift during the ceremony. Kakegami can be wrapped both inside or outside the wrapping paper. In most cases, people wrap kakegami inside, however, for the purpose of receiving a prize or award, outside kakegami wrapping is appropriate.

Mizuhiki tied with strings
Image from imacha.jp

Mizuhiki” is a part of wrapping used to decorate the gift over the kakegami. Now it is more common to print mizuhiki over kakegami, but traditionally, mizuhiki was tied with string. Different mizuhiki have different purposes; for example, common gifts are tied with red and white string, and black and white strings are used for death-related gifts. Red and white mizuhiki has different rules; the number of strings changes depending on the purpose. For instance, mizuhiki for normal purposes is a ribbon knotted with five strings. However, marriage-related mizuhiki should be created with ten strings. Strings are cut to show a good luck wish for a newly married couple. For the same reason, the mizuhiki for a general apology gift is made with five-cut strings.

There are so many more different rules for Japanese gift-wrapping. Even though you probably won’t use kakegami or mizuhiki for your wrapping, this wrapping technique will look nicer and unique, and may be worth it to try!

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