April 14, 2009

by Shiori Kadowaki and Wakako Kurimoto


Introduction of ORIGAMI

What is origami? In short, it is the Japanese traditional art of folding paper. What does the word “origami” mean? “Origami” consists of two Chinese characters: “ori” and “kami (“gami” is a voiced consonant of “kami”).” “Ori” means “folding” and “kami (gami)” means “paper.” Just as the name indicates, origami is a playful art that enables one to make flowers, creatures, toys, boxes, and even practical items by folding paper. This origami culture is usually handed down from parents to children, from generation to generation. In Japan, most people made origami when they were children, and some still make origami even after they have grown up, but most people regrettably stop making origami when they get older.

Origami is an easy way to play, because all you need is paper. You need not prepare special origami paper — any paper is fine. You can use newspaper, wrapping paper, leaflets and so on. Most origami paper is square, but you can use triangular-shaped paper, pentagonal-shaped paper, hexagonal-shaped paper, or circular paper. These days, some people use not only paper but other materials as well. For example, cloth can be used. Iron can be folded when it is in a molten state. Clay can be folded then fired to become origami pottery. You can use anything around you.


The origin of origami has not yet been discovered. However, according to one view, people began making origami from the middle of the Edo period.

In the seventh century, the method of making paper was introduced from China to Japan. After that, Japanese developed many kinds of native materials and processes to make useful papers. Finally, Japanese made their own original paper, washi, which was thin yet strong. At first, the main aim of using paper was for writing. Paper was used for Buddhist and public documents or as a pastime for nobles who did calligraphy. Ordinary people couldn’t use paper because it was such a rare and valuable item.

Later, people started using paper to wrap objects. Wrapping was one of the rules of decorum. Even now, traces of this kind of wrapping remain. One such example is noshi, a style of wrapping that Japanese use when they send things to a ceremony. In the middle of the Edo period, paper came to be commonly produced and ordinary people became familiar with it. Then, ways of wrapping developed into origami and people enjoyed it as a hobby.

Nowadays, many ways of folding origami are being created. Even now, many Japanese make origami when they’re young, and it still remains an important part of Japanese culture.

Variety of ORIGAMI

What kinds of origami exist? Here are a few kinds. (based on Japanese Wikipedia)

  • 不折正方形一枚折り(husetu-seihoukei-ichimai-ori)…Using a piece of square paper, never use scissors.
    This technique is popular among origami lovers. Works using this skill are occasionally very complicated, so some people say that using scissors should sometimes be allowed to make the work easier.
  • 複合折り紙 (fukugou-origami)…multiple origami
    This technique divides the object into more than one section, and then these sections are folded separately and then combined. For example, when you make an animal, you can divide it into a head section and a body section. What’s more, different colored papers can be used, so you can make a very colorful work.
  • 切り込み折り紙 (kirikomi-origami)…using a bit of cutting
    This technique increases the number of corners by cutting in to or cutting off a section of the paper. This can make a complex work easier to fold. This skill is opposite to fusetu-seihoukei-ichimai-ori or never using scissors, Sometimes cutting is said to be improper, but some people say that cutting is better than making a work too complicated.
  • ユニット折り紙 (yunitto-origami)…unit origami
    This technique uses several parts that are the same. One is called “kusudama (decorative ball).” This is different from the fukugou-origam technique in which each part shouldn’t be the same. In yunitto origami each part is the same. Sometimes, we use glue to combine them, but generally glue is not used. When we combine parts, we insert one part of a unit into another unit.
  • 仕掛け折り紙 (shikake-origami)…including amusement
    This technique results in a movable toy. For example, a camera that has a releasable shutter or a bird that has wings that you can make flap!

Some Information about ORIGAMI

1. Origami Day

The Japanese Origami Association designated November 11th as Origami Day. This day refers to the anniversary of global peace. Also, it comes from the idea that a square is made from four lines, or the “ones” that appear in the date November (11) 11th.

2. Museum

The Nippon Origami Museum is the greatest origami museum in the world. Many kinds of origami are on display here.
Nippon Origami Museum
90-1, Ha, Kamocho, Kamoshi, Ishikawa 922-0241 JAPAN

3. Association

The Nippon Origami Association (NOA) is based in Tokyo. The association opens to the public every Tuesday. They distribute information about origami and produce some events. If you want to know more about the activities of NOA, please check their homepage.

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