Greetings, souvenir hunters! Are you looking for a lightweight and easy-to-pack gift from Japan that won't make your luggage weigh more than a sumo wrestler?
You gotta hand it to the Japanese - they can turn a plain ol' piece of cloth into a sentimental treasure. Meet the Tenugui - a rectangular cotton rag with fancy patterns that'll make you think twice before using it to blow your nose.
But wait, there's more! Back in the day (7th century to be exact), Tenugui was made from silk and decked out with hand-drawn pictures of Shinto or Buddhist gods. They were all the rage at shrines and temples during religious rituals.
As time went on, the cost of cloth-making dropped, and Tenugui became a household staple. These days, you can use 'em as headbands, napkins, souvenirs, belts, decorations - you name it. Even bad guys get in on the action - ever seen a Japanese thief without a Tenugui tied over their nose as a disguise? Didn't think so.
But the real kicker? Tenugui also doubles as a gift-wrapping cloth. Yup, families used to have a special Tenugui just for wrapping presents. And the best part? The recipient kept the gift and returned the Tenugui, which was then used to wrap the next gift and eventually passed down from generation to generation. Talk about a reusable gift wrap that keeps on giving!
So, what would you give for a Tenugui that's been wrapping presents for your family since the dawn of time? Maybe it's time to start valuing those ratty old washcloths in your linen closet a little more…
Pro Tip: Don't just settle for any old machine-made version you can find at a houseware shop. No, no, no! Be a true Tenugui connoisseur and seek out the specialized shops (especially in Tokyo) that sell hand-decorated versions. Sure, it might take a little extra effort to find them, but trust me, it's worth it. Not only will your friends appreciate getting your fancy handmade Tenugui, but you'll also have a newfound appreciation for the ancient art of Tenugui decoration. Plus, you can impress all your new Japanese friends with your knowledge of Tenugui and earn some serious cultural street cred.

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