Japan is going through a wrapping craze. First, artist Haruhiko Kawaguchi encased couples in shrink-wrap for photographs. Now, the wrapping involves cloth. Unlike Haruhiko’s work, however, the end goal of “doll wrapping” is not the creation of art. Instead, the purpose of this bizarre wrapping fad is to soothe and calm stressed and injured adults.
Officially, this weird therapy trend is called “Otonamaki.” This translates to “art of adult wrapping.” To participate, a person sits down and crosses their legs on a piece of cloth. The therapist then begins to pull together all four corners of the fabric. After the initial knot, the person is gently leaned onto their back. Then, the rest of the material is tied together tightly in a few more knots. As a result, the person inside is unable to stretch out their arms or legs. Once in that position, the therapist gently rocks the patient back and forth. A session can last between five and thirty minutes.
The therapy is growing a wide following, with many patients women who recently gave birth. According to the founder, Nobuko Watanabe, adult swaddling helps cure aching muscles, back pain, and injured hips. Started in 2015, Watanabe, a Kyoto midwife, thought adults would benefit just as much from swaddling as newborn infants. People who experience Otonamaki have a difficult time explaining why the process is therapeutic. Most emphasize they gain a deeper appreciation of their body and feel an inner warmth. To provide additional avenues for growth, Watanabe uses colored cloth to represent different environments. Patients feel the second layer of cloth helps them focus internally since the colors block more of the outside light.
Nevertheless, despite the growing trend in Tokyo and across the country, members of the medical profession caution would-be patients. In particular, concerns exist that swaddled patients may have anxiety attacks while wrapped up. Additionally, chiropractors warn that keeping the body in such an odd shape for upwards of 30 minutes may cause long-term spinal damage. While the debate rages as to the actual benefits of Otonamaki, people are signing up by the thousands and therapists are counting their Yen.