Origami: The Traditional Art of Japan | Guidable
Paper Crane Origami and Tree

Origami: The Traditional Art of Japan

By Trang Feb 24, 2023

The traditional art of Japan – origami, from an ancient recreational activity for adults and children to Japanese symbolic art, is now an apparent and indispensable matter in daily life.

The Definition of “Origami”

What is “origami”? Origami is derived from two kanji characters in Japanese, from the plain form “oru” (折る) which means “to fold” and “gami” or “kami” (紙) means “paper”. When combining two of them, we have “the act of folding paper” (折り紙). Today, origami is considered a part of crafting and designing. Also, it can be seen as a form of sculpture art with many different techniques and styles. And nowadays, origami can be applied to many other uses, not just for daily life but also for scientific benefits.

History of Origami

Origami has been in Japan’s history for a fairly long time, and the word “origami” has been recognized worldwide. Still, it wasn’t just started in Japan.

Even though there wasn’t any clear record of origami’s origin, it all began in the seventh century. Just as paper and paper-folding techniques were imported from China by Japanese Buddhist monks.

Furthermore, before the term “origami” became widely used later on in the twentieth century, “orikata”, “orisue” or “orimono” were used to describe “the act of folding”.

History of Origami

Credit: Photo AC

In each period in Japanese history, origami was used for different purposes. For instance:

In the Heian Period (794 – 1185), origami was an essential element of its people; origami was used to wrap gifts, decorate, and fold ornaments for various formal ceremonies.

Throughout the Muromachi Period (1338 – 1573), origami grew into a leisure activity of craft art for the elite at the samurai level.

And in the Edo Period (1603 – 1868), there was mass production of paper; therefore, origami became more accessible to ordinary people.

Gradually, origami has become a crucial part of Japanese cultural heritage, especially in the art and crafts aspect.

Different Types of Origami

There are various ways of making paper sculpture through origami, as the names of the techniques are pretty self-explanatory, such as: realistic (to create a model that is heavily based on real-life inspiration), minimal (to create a model as simple as you can), practical (to create a model for efficient uses), wet folding (a technique that created by Yoshizawa Akira, to create a model with water-soluble glue as a guide), and so many more.

Tools/Materials

After paper and paper-folding techniques were introduced to Japan, they were applied with Japanese materials to make a thin yet strong paper called washi (Japanese paper). Due to its durability, washi paper also was used for religious practices and official record-keeping.

Now, origami has widely developed into a leisure activity for people of all ages. Origami paper is still thin but less thick than the usual drawing paper, with either one blank side and one color/designed side or both sides having color/designed art.

Besides using your own hands to fold, we can also use a paper folding tool or a bone folder to help you smooth out edges and be precise with complicated patterns.

Origami Paper

Credit: Photo AC

Origami in Daily Life

Other than being a leisure activity, origami can be seen in various aspects during the regular day-to-day routine. This technique has been mentioned previously, called the practical style of folding. For instance:

Calbee Chips Bag

Calbee Chips Bag Origami

Credit: picture by the author

With just a simple five-step instruction on the back of the Calbee chips bag, after we finish eating the chips, we can fold the bag into a smaller shape, which helps your trash bag be less messy and doesn’t take up too much space.

Chopsticks Cover

Chopstick Holder Origami

Credit: picture by the author

Another straightforward four-step instruction on the back of the chopstick cover, we can fold it into a chopstick holder, and of course, to help you hold your chopsticks.

Easy Origami Patterns for You to Try

After learning about the definition of origami, its history, and the basic materials to make simple models, let’s get into work and try these two basic patterns.

Paper Crane

The origami crane is one of the most famous models. Its design was based on the Japanese red-crowned crane.

Along with the rich history of the pattern, there is a myth from the old Japanese legend that if anyone folds a thousand paper cranes, they will be granted a wish from the gods.

And to make a paper crane is not too complicated to fold. As long as you have the patience and follow the instructions below, you can make an origami crane in no time.

How to Fold Paper Crane Origami

Credit: picture by the author

Small Box

One more useful practical technique of origami you should try is the paper box. You can follow the instructions below to practice.

How to Fold Origami Box

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Will You Try Origami?

Origami might be a relaxing leisure activity, yet it’s also elegant in different aspects, as it will train your patience and precision. So grab some paper and try origami today!!!

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Featured photo credit: Canva.com