How to Wrap Presents Like the Japanese in Paper

Written by umiko sasaki
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How to Wrap Presents Like the Japanese in Paper
Origami is closely connected to the art of origata. (oiseau image by legrodu95 from

Wrapping a present in Japan is a more formal affair than in America. If you were to give someone in Japan a hastily wrapped gift at the last moment, you might actually be considered rude since you did not put your heart into it. While Americans tend to hold the idea that "it's the thought that counts," the Japanese believe the wrapping around a gift signifies your feelings for the recipient. For this reason, "origata," the Japanese art of paper gift wrapping, was created. It's so influential that there's an entire design school dedicated to teaching the practice.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Wrapping paper
  • Tape
  • Mizuhiki or other paper cording

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  1. 1

    Lay out the square of wrapping paper you're going to use, with the decorative side down. One of the corners should be facing you.

  2. 2

    Place the object you're wrapping on the paper. You can either put the gift right in the centre of the paper, with each side facing a corner, or place it on top of the corner nearest to you and a little off-centre so the wrapping will have more of a diagonal effect.

  3. 3

    Fold the paper around the gift. If the object is in the centre, bring each corner of the paper inward until they touch each other in the centre. If you opted to create a more diagonal effect, first fold with the shortest corner near you, then fold each successive corner until you come to the largest one. This corner should wrap around the object at least once, covering the other folds before coming to a stop at the bottom of the package.

  4. 4

    Tape the remaining corner to the rest of the paper as subtly as you can, using only one strip if possible. With diagonal wrapping, the tape will be on the bottom of the package; if you started with the object in the centre, the tape will end up in the centre of the package but is easily concealed by the next step.

  5. 5

    Decorate the package with paper cording, also called mizuhiki. There are many books available to help you get started making your own mizuhiki art, or you can purchase the cording at a speciality Japanese shop. This step is important in keeping the package together since you have not used scissors. Most Japanese gifts include either a pre-made mizuhiki shape or symbol, or mizuhiki cording wrapped lengthwise and crosswise around the object. This is largely symbolic: wrapping a gift in mizuhiki keeps "evil spirits" from entering the package.

Tips and warnings

  • You can include fancier packaging by incorporating a second sheet of paper and folding it into pleats on top of the first paper. The pleats should be odd in number, signifying good luck, and facing the left of the recipient to wish them well. Even numbers are "bad luck," and right-facing pleats are a sign of condolence offered at funerals.
  • In addition to paper gift wrap, its cloth equivalent---called "furoshiki"---is often used to wrap gifts that are difficult to wrap in paper, like wine bottles or potted plants.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, use scissors to cut the paper. To the recipient, it's as good as telling them you cut corners when it comes to considering their feelings.

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