Japanese Origami / Paper Folding

Origami is possibly the most well-known of all of Japan’s cultural activities. This is practiced as an art where paper is folded to create a range shapes including animals, flowers or people.
During the sixth century, paper was introduced to Japan from Korea and China by Buddhist monks. It was very expensive and was first made with plant fibres. Only special holidays or ceremonies had origami decorations. Early traditions with origami include making butterflies for traditional Japanese weddings and special origami shapes that accompanied expensive gifts for good luck. Soon this became a national past time and is now practiced all over the world.
Origami Vocabulary:
Hanshi: Handmade paper
Origami That You Can Do At Home:
1. Gather your origami paper (and a ruler if you are new). Normal paper is fine, but you need to make sure it is in the shape of a square. The bigger the square, the easier the folding will be. You can find origami paper in most craft stores and you will it is thinner and more flexible. Alternatively, you can often find more traditionally decorated paper online.
2. Have the instructions ready for the origami design that you wish to fold. I would check out online examples such as http://www.origami-instructions.com/. These steps are going to outline how to fold an origami fan.
3. Start with the white side of the paper folding upwards. (If you don’t have a coloured piece of paper, you can draw your design first and the then continue with the instructions.) Fold along the bottom one centimetre in width. If you have a ruler, you can press harder by running the ruler along the pressed edges.
4. Flip the paper over so the coloured page is now shown. Don’t unfold your new flap.
5. Fold along the bottom one centimetre in width again. It will be easier as your earlier fold will create a guide for you to follow. If you have a ruler, you can press the edges again.
6. Flip the paper over again so the white side is shown. Again fold another line.
7. Flip over until the decorated sign is shown. Fold another line. Keep repeating these steps till all the entire page is folded into a strip.
8. Around the one centimetre mark from the side, make a new fold. Remember to use the ruler if you want to. If you are making this with a child, they like the closest end to the arrow stapled.
9. Open up each side so that your fan is created!
Fun Facts about Origami:
1. Origami styles and techniques continue to expand. More styles with harder techniques that have become popular recently include complex origami, mathematical origami, modular origami, wet folding origami and origami tessellations.
2. Today’s face of origami is Yoshizawa Akira. He is the acknowledged grandmaster of origami and the father of modern creative origami. He is known for fusing geometry and art together. Yoshizawa was self-taught and became interested in origami when a girl gave him a paper boat when he was a child.
3. Samurais in Japan would gave each other origami gifts known as noshi. These took the shape of fish from pieces of paper folded many times, and were considered a good luck token.
4. There is a Japanese wives tale that if you folded a thousand paper cranes, you could be granted a wish. There is a beautiful story of a girl called Sadako who tried to do this after she fell ill. If you wish to read Sadako’s story, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes is a book by Elenor Coerr.
5. The largest origami crane had a wingspan of nearly 82 metres or 268 feet and 10 inches. Lots of little origami pages were glued together to make a single piece of paper that measured 100 metres by 100 metres. This record is held by the Peace Piece Project at Hiroshima Shudo University in Hiroshima, Japan.
6. From the biggest to the smallest! The smallest origami crane was made out of paper that had the dimensions of 1 millimetre by 1 millimetre. Assistant Professor Watanabe needed to use a microscope and sewing needle in order to make the crane! He completed this record at the Nigata University, Japan.
7. The longest garland made out of origami measures at 7000 metres! That’s 4.3 miles! It was created by the Hiroshima Special Support School in Japan.
8. While not exactly origami, another cultural paper craft from Japan is called kirigami. While origami makes its shapes by folding only, kirigami involves cutting as well. More complex shapes and art with negative space can be created. These art pieces are more delicate than origami and are definitely worth a look.
9. A modern spin on the origami art form has appeared with origami popup designs. This was created by Masahiro Chatani in the 1980’s, and he and Keiko Nakazawa have many books showcasing the brilliance and beauty in this new art form.
10. A good online resource if you wish to continue on your own origami journey is found at http://www.origami-instructions.com/. This is a series of online tutorials and workshops to help with the steps and techniques you need to make origami. There are also thousands of Youtube videos to assist you as well.

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