Tenugui – the cloth you never knew you needed

Tenugui – the cloth you never knew you needed

Written by Sophie, January 2021

What can be used as a hand towel, a head wrap, to wrap and carry a bento box, to gift wrap any shape present and also to clean your house? If you’ve read the title then you’ll probably know it’s tenugui, but what exactly are tenugui?

Originating in the Heian era (794 – 1185), tenugui were originally owned by only the very highest in society, and as such were often woven from silk. When the mass production of cloth became available, tenugui become more accessible and were soon staples in homes across Japan.

Modern tenugui are usually cotton and often printed with auspicious patterns or traditional scenes. Interestingly the two shortest sides are left unhemmed, to help wring out the wet cloth and make it dry faster.


The great thing about tenugui is the versatility they have. You can keep one in your bag and use it as a towel in the summer if you get too hot, or wrap up a bottle of wine to carry it home. If you know some of the basic wraps you can use one single cloth for so many things. You can even use them as sustainable gift wrap, either give the tenugui as part of the gift, or (as is common in Japan) take it back once the gift has been opened.

What makes our tenugui from Kyoya Dye House Co. extra special is that they are made with 100% cotton, and hand dyed so the colour will last, and they’ll only get softer with use.

Here are a few of the wraps I think you should know:

Box Wrap: this can be used to wrap a bento box, gift box, or some books.

Bottle Wrap: perfect for carrying a bottle of wine to a dinner party, or for a picnic.

Small Pouch: this can be used to store your glasses, or phone.

Bandanna: great for covering your head in the summer, this will keep your hair out of your face.

You can buy our Kyoya Tenugui here

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