Why was origami made

Japanese origami - the history of paper folding

Fold a plane, crane or flower out of a sheet of paper, everyone has probably tried it before. This form of paper folding is called origami (折 り 紙) in Japanese, derived from the words for folding (折 る) and paper (紙). Origami is not only popular with children, it has also found its place in the arts.

The story behind origami

Japanese origami can be traced back to the 6th century. At that time, the paper was brought from China to Japan by Buddhist monks. At that time paper was much too expensive and so the first origami were only used for religious ceremonies and formal occasions.

Traditional Shinto weddings used paper butterflies to represent the groom and bride. But over the years a label has also developed for the handing over of gifts, which prescribed certain shapes of the folded paper. Depending on how they were folded, they stood for luck or symbolized sincerity and purity.

The first origami books were published in Japan in the 18th century. These included illustrations of different folding models. The art of paper folding gradually spread and flourished several times. Origami was also very popular in fashion, and models such as cranes and boats were printed on fabric.

Of course, paper was also folded in other parts of the world and every culture has developed its own shapes. The origin of the actual paper folding is therefore unclear. In the Meiji period, even the kindergarten system from Germany and the associated European paper folding are said to have influenced Japanese origami.

Japanese origami in modern times

Even today, origami is still very popular with many. Akira Yoshizawa (吉澤 章) made a big step in modern times in 1954. He created new models and developed a system for the simple drawing of folding instructions. The Yoshizawa Randlett system is still used internationally today.

Of course, more and more complex folding methods have developed over the years and origami now has a wide variety of techniques and materials. Sometimes real works of art are produced, regardless of whether they are realistic animals and plants, miniature representations or elaborate 3D objects. For many people, origami is not just a hobby, but also a way to relax, let your creativity run free and create something yourself from a bare sheet of paper.

The crane as a special origami symbol

When it comes to origami, the crane has become the main symbol. But it is not only a symbol for the art of folding paper, but also has a deeper meaning. In Japan it stands for a long and happy life. According to an old legend, when you have folded 1,000 cranes, you have a wish to the gods. Through the story of Sadako and the Thousand Cranes, this legend has spread around the world.

The young student Sadako Sasaki fell ill with leukemia after the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima. Believing that if she folds 1,000 cranes she will be well again, she fought her way through her serious illness. She lost the fight, but together with the paper cranes she became a symbol of world peace. Even today you can always find new crane chains on monuments in Japan.