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Fukusa (gift cover)

Fukusa (gift cover)

  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    1850-1867 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Velvet, embroidered with coloured silk and gold-wrapped thread

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type
This Japanese textile is a fukusa or gift cover. In the Edo period (1615-1868) the exchange of gifts was an important social ritual. Gifts were usually presented in a box on a tray over which the fukusa would be placed. The choice of a fukusa appropriate to the occasion was an important part of the gift-giving ceremony. The richness of the decoration was an indication of the donor's wealth and the design showed evidence of their taste and cultural sensitivity

Materials & Making
Many fukusa are embroidered. Much of the design in this example has been executed in gold thread, which looks dazzling against the black velvet ground. The thread consists of a silk core wrapped in paper and gold leaf. It has been laid on the surface of the fabric and attached with tiny stitches, a technique called couching. The three-dimensional effect was achieved by padding out various parts of the design with cotton prior to embroidering.

Subjects Depicted
This fukusa depicts the legend of Jo and Uba. They were an old couple who lived a long and happy life together. When they died their spirits occupied the old pine tree on the island where they had lived. On moonlit nights they returned in human form to clear the forest floor, Jo raking in the good and Uba sweeping out the bad. The story symbolises conjugal harmony and long life.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


1850-1867 (made)

Materials and Techniques

Velvet, embroidered with coloured silk and gold-wrapped thread


Height: 76 cm, Width: 67.1 cm, Depth: 1.5 cm

Descriptive line

Gift cover (fukusa), velvet embroidered with silk and gold-wrapped threads, Japan, 1850 - 1867

Labels and date

British Galleries:
In the late Victorian period it was very fashionable to decorate the home with Japanese objects. Textiles such as this, which would have been used in Japan to cover a gift, were particularly popular. The unusual motifs and lavish gold embroidery would have seemed very exotic to the British public. [27/03/2003]


Textiles; Embroidery


East Asia Collection

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