Gift-giving in Japan is often conducted in a formal manner, prescribed by tradition. Presentation of the gift is as important as the gift itself. Gifts are placed on a tray and covered with a fukusa. The entire package is then wrapped in a furoshiki, or wrapping cloth, and delivered. The furoshiki is removed, the tray is placed to ensure that the decoration on the fukusa faces the recipient, and the gift is presented. The tray and its contents are then taken from the room; a gift from the recipient isplaced on a tray; the fukusa arranged again; and the entire parcel returned to the inital giver.
A fukusa is carefully chosen to evoke the circumstance of the gift-giving through its decoration. Certain themes are appropriate for celebrations such as weddings, some for occasions related to seasonal festivals, and otehrs for expressing condolences. Pictorial or symbolic imagery taken from history, literature, and the performing arts, or motifs that reflect cultural conventions are commoly employed. "Reading" the fukusa adds yet another layer of meaning to gift-giving.
In this exhibition, techniques for embellishment of the textiles include tapestry-weaving, elaborate embroidery with metallic threads and colored silks, and yuzen-dyeing, a complex process involving repeated applications of resist paste and dyes brushed on by hand. Most of these fukusa date from the late Edo and ealry Meiji periods (between 1801 and 1883).