Gift-wrapping is especially important in Japanese culture — an old saying from the Japanese is “Paper is the mirror of the soul” — and it’s believed nature and the spirit to be united because the manner in which you wrap and tie an object carries an intrinsic symbolic message. Daniel Barker of Kate’s Paperie, a New York City speciality paper store, was invited onto “Today” to discuss the art of Japanese gift wrapping.
The Japanese equate wrapping a gift with “wrapping the heart,” so every gift is marked by thoughtfulness and consideration, both for the object housed within the container or wrapping, and for the recipient of the gift. Bringing seemingly start contrasts into harmony — like yin and yang — is central to the idea of any presentation. Rusticity and refinement, the transient and the eternal, the earthy and the sublime: such disparities are made evident — and rendered compatible — in choices of combinations of papers and ties that both emphasize and luxuriate differences in texture as well as, perhaps differences in color or pattern. A crinkled paper lashed with knotted cord, for example, reflects that approach.
As early as 16th century, the English were “dressing” packages with colorful wallpaper. In Japan and China, paper has both functional and spiritual elements. For instance, in Japan where both paper and light are considered sacred, translucent paper diffuses light and light in turn illuminates the subtle shadings and textures of paper. Screens and lanterns not only offer protection or illumination, they’re also associated spiritually with diffusion of aggression.
The opening of the package is honored — as a ritual act. Many packages enjoy the interplay of what is revealed and what is concealed, with hinges, flaps or cuts hinting at contents without disclosing them.
What’s in paper?
Anyone can make a sheet of paper. The formula for any and every paper, be it a lovely, luxury handmade paper, or a roll of newsprint, is essentially the same: a slurry of fibrous material mixed with water and bonding agent — and, perhaps, a sizing to seal the surface for printing or writing. Because paper can be made from many things, rags, wood, cornstalks, many qualities and/or purposes are possible.
Techniques used in Japanese gift wrapping
Pleating — odd number of pleats means joy. The pleats should face directionally to the left which means celebration.
Ying & Yang — combining 2 materials is a good thing. (ie: natural materials...etc)
Printing or colors & textures — it’s creative for designs to be pre-printed on paper.
Bowing — use simple note.