Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell


Ceremonial Wrappers / Tsutsumi
This page attempts to record what is known about the origin and history of folded paper tsutsumi. Please contact me if you know any of this information is incorrect or if you have any other information that should be added. Thank you.

I have found it difficult to discover much definite information about this subject. I do not read Japanese so that my information is largely culled from sources in English.

Tsutsumi are Japanese ceremonial or formal wrappers for food and flowers, each design of wrapper being associated with a particular food or flower, and thus also often with a particular occasion or day of the year. Ocho and mecho can be considered to be tsutsumi since they are wrappings for sake kettles or bottles.

The Metropolitan Museum in New York has in its collection a scrapbook album of tsutsumi, accession number 2013.248.1–.25, about which the Met says, 'According to the inscriptions, this set of models served as the initiation into the art of origata for Kikuchi Fujiwara no Takehide by an Ogasawara master, and is dated the third month of 1697. The album and examples predate the woodblock-printed wrapping manuals by several decades, and serve as important physical evidence of the tradition of paper folding.' This is the earliest documentary evidence I know of for the folding of tsutsumi, although it is already highly developed here and must clearly be much older.

Further evidence for the folding of ceremonial wrappers comes from the 'Hoketsuki' (wrapping and tying) by Ise Sadatake, written in 1764. This book is also sometimes called the 'Tsutsumi-no Ki'. I do not know which designation is correct or why there are two different titles in use. Several pages from this book are shown below.

In his article 'History of Origami in the East and the West before Interfusion', published in 'Origami 5: Fifth International Meeting of Origami, Science, Mathematics and Education', .... Hatori Koshiro says 'According to Ise Sadatake ... such paperfolding was established in the Muromachi period (1333 to 1573)'. This may well, of course, be true, but, as far as I know, cannot yet be backed up by documentary evidence.

Pages 4 to 7 of the Kan No Mado, written in 1845, drawings of, and sometimes instructions for folding, several tsutsumi for several flowers and festivals, including a wrapper for the peach blossom for the Doll's Festival and for the chrysanthemum for the Choyo no Sekku.

Isao Honda's book 'Noshi - Classic Origami in Japan', which was published by the Japan Publications Trading Company in 1964 gives several examples of folding methods for noshi, or noshita awabi, which are wrappers for dried abalone, as well as other, non-traditional folds for wrappers and containers.

In contemporary Japanese culture noshi are attached to gifts as a symbol of good wishes, although, since they are usually commercially produced, the dried abalone is usually represented just by a strip of paper. Alternatively, representations of noshi may simply be printed directly onto the wrapping paper itself.