The Japanese traditions of end-of-year gift exchange and New Year’s cards are starting to become simplified, but we should all reflect upon our relationships with friends and family and convey a thank-you message before ushering in the New Year.
We have asked Yukiko Goto, who values human connections and have released numerous publications on this theme, about how you can convey your “thank you.”
“I’ve always loved giving a gift. It could be some food that agrees with my taste buds, or something I find intriguing or inspiring. I actually carry a few mini gifts in my purse just in case,” says Goto. Her love of gifting intensifies as we approach Japan’s gift-exchanging season at year-end and New Year. By October, this master of gift-giving starts going through shopping catalogs and checking stores to find giftware.
People she wants to thank include suppliers of her homeware store in Numazu, staff involved in the publication of books she has authored, as well as friends and family members. She visualizes the face and name of each of these people while looking for a special something that makes them happy.
Tenugui is one of the gift options that her close friends appreciate.
Goto herself is a dedicated Tenugui user. She gifts words of gratitude along with Tenugui, as she knows full well how convenient it is.
“Toward the end of the year, there are more occasions than usual to catch up with friends and colleagues. It’s times like that when I personally hand over a Tenugui, gift-wrapped with red Japanese paper, as my way of saying ‘thank you’.”
She also spoke of using Tenugui as a substitute for wrapping paper.
“Kamawanu stocks Tenugui that bears a lattice pattern in bright pink with the number ‘39’ for accentuation. The numbers ‘3’ and ‘9’ in Japanese reads similarly to the phrase ‘thank you.’ The print is so adorable! I gift it as it is, or use it to wrap a book, some sweets or other unassuming gift.”
Tenugui can be a casual and useful gift in itself, or can be wrapping paper or Furoshiki wrapping cloth.
“Tenugui comes in various patterns and colors. That makes it easy to choose the right one for each recipient. It’s fun for those who give and those who receive at the same time. The choice of a pattern can also be a conversation starter. Tenugui can be a very personal gift that reflects your appreciation of the recipient.”
Something Goto has been meaning to try recently is to mail a Tenugui gift in a dedicated envelope with a see-through clear window. “You can buy a Tenugui and an envelope together. Imagine receiving such a lovely parcel! I love the chic navy envelope, carrying Kamawanu’s logo in a subtle design.”
In this holiday season, when many companies close for New Year celebrations, bath salt, wine and alcohol are also popular gift options.
“If my gift recipient works in a large company department, I tend to choose individually-packaged bath salt to show that they all deserve a nice long bath to unwind. A gift set of individually-wrapped bath salt can be shared within the department. The recipients will also be given the opportunity to pick and choose from the various fragrances and benefits according to their mood.”
Goto is considering giving a gift-boxed “hot-spring-at-home kit”, containing bath salt of choice and a Tenugui, to a couple who love traveling. It is a playful gift that enhances your time at home, a perfect choice at this time of the year when it is difficult to travel.
When Goto is invited to a home party, she would take wine or Japanese Sake together with a Tenugui so that the host can use it as a tea towel. “Choose one that carries a seasonal motif, such as fir tree, snow, poinsettia or holly tree to jazz up your Christmas dinner table.”
In today’s world when it has become difficult to get together with your special friends face to face, Goto believes in gifts that show your understanding of the recipient’s preference or lifestyle.
“I might choose a Tenugui bearing a pattern of a winter plant for my flower-loving friend, or a Tenugui with a drawing of seasonal event to add a flamboyant charm to the recipient’s dining table. Each color and pattern have hidden personality, seasonality and Japanese sense of traditional chic. There is much more than one way of choosing and enjoying Tenugui.”
Tenugui is, simply put, a piece of cloth, carrying a pattern that depicts a small aspect of our world. Yet, Goto has shown us it can be enjoyed in so many different ways, bringing fun and joy.
Yukiko Goto has run the “hal” homeware and tableware store in Numazu, Shizuoka, since 2003. Her understated way of living has attracted many followers. Her publications include “Otona Jikan wo Kasaneru,” “Aitai, Tokyo-no Taisetsu-na Hito, Watashi-no Aisuru Omise” (Fusosha) and “50-sai Karano Kurashi-no Totonoekata” (Daiwa Shobo). Her latest title, “Mainichi-no Koto, Kou Kangaereba Daijobu,” is now on sale (PHP Institute).
Planned and produced by Aiko Yaguchi（NON-GRID）
Photography by Kohei Yamamoto
Interview by Tomoko Yanagisawa
Styling by Haruka Kunimatsu
Kamawanu Online Store will launch “Tenugui envelopes” and gift-wrapping service in early December.