(image from here.)

After coming back from Kitano Tenmagu Shrine, we visited the Karakusaya Furoshiki store, which I found through this site.Furoshiki is a traditional method of wrapping items and transporting them in cloth, and is often used in modern days to transport bento (lunchboxes.) I had seen these before and thought they were cool, but didn’t really understand it. (I now know what the “handkerchiefs” were that our Japanese exchange student kept bringing as gifts.)

It took us a while to find it, but the store was fascinating. The staff was friendly and helpful, showing Katie and I how to wrap certain items. It’s very difficult to do neatly! I really enjoyed learning how to make a shoulder bag out of a single piece of cloth!

(video from here.)

I bought a couple different kinds of furoshiki – a size to wrap bento boxes in, and a size to make an “eco” bag like in the video. It’s quite popular because it is easy to carry groceries home in.

IMG_3351 This is the large “eco-bag”  size. It can be used to carry bento for picnics, and double sided so that it can be used as a picnic cloth. (And yes, that’s my tatami floor.)

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This is a furoshiki I got later at a “ninja shop.” It’s the next size down, and still good for carrying things.

IMG_3382 These are the bento size. You’ll see my wrapping below.

IMG_3355 And I’ll bet you can’t guess what that one is. I got it at the “ninja shop” as well. Watch the video to find out.

I guess it’s not really furoshiki, since it’s sewed and tied, but I consider it similarly. This could also hold the plastic-chopstick-holders, as well as a chopstick rest.

We then went to Loft, where I managed to lay my hands on some bento boxes. A bento box is pretty much a lunchbox, but there is a specific method of using it that started in Japan, I believe, and is spreading rapidly across the internet.

Bento boxes are fairly small and compact (depending on the size you get), and are carefully packed to the brim with compartmentalized food.

(This is a very basic bento from Wikimedia Commons.)

If you type bento into Flickr, you’ll find excellent examples. vingt_deuxhas some excellent ones. I got myself a couple boxes, which I show off below.

You don’t have to get them special, but these are very nice boxes. If you’re interested in trying to make bento, any Tupperware/Gladware container will do. I just like the ones offered here.

These can be easily wrapped and taken places in furoshiki. One of my first attempts:

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I hope I get better with practice. I plan to take bento with me for picnics under the cherry blossoms, as we hurtle into hanami, or flower-viewing season.

After these places, we went to a Mexican restaurant; my post on it is here.

Furoshiki sites:

My first introduction: http://kyotofoodie.com/kyoto-furoshiki-karakusaya/

A good set of visual instructions: http://www.env.go.jp/en/focus/attach/060403-5.html

Bento sites:

vingt_deux’s amazing bento diary, with excellent ideas – http://www.flickr.com/photos/photoschizo/sets/72157604742960594/

Here’s a great site for investigating bento and getting started: http://justbento.com/

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