When physical borders are closed, it is easy to feel disconnected from the world. Exploring different art forms and cultural practices, can offer an alternative way to interact with the rich, dynamic history of another country. Even while isolating at home it is still possible for families to forge these important cultural connections. At its best the Japanese tradition of origami is an art form but the basics can be easily learned and provides an interesting and entertaining way into Japanese culture as we start to move indoors and look for interesting activities or hobbies.
Although most people have at least heard of origami and are aware of its Japanese origin, they might not be as aware of the fascinating history of this unique art form. The Japanese word “origami” translates to “fold paper”, but before paper was first imported from China to Japan in the 7th century AD, it is speculated that folding of cloth and leather occurred. After its introduction, paper folding became common in elite Japanese circles for hundreds of years, and was mostly restricted to ceremonial or religious purposes. By the Edo period (1603-1868), origami was done recreationally as well. There are historical references of origami butterflies appearing at 17th century Shinto weddings, indicating the art form’s proliferation. The first origami guidebook, the Hiden Senbazuru Orikata (translated to “The Secret Folding of One Thousand Cranes”) was published in 1797 introducing 49 new paper crane designs. Cranes remain among the most popular origami structures, but the possibilities of creation are truly limitless and continue evolving in style and form.
Origami is a fun way to create family memories while simultaneously broadening kids’ cultural awareness. Adults too can enjoy this craft as a unique form of creative expression. Psychology Today has reported that origami can be an effective way for individuals to increase mindfulness and feelings of productivity. With a bit of effort, you will find your creative skills improve and you might even be inspired to challenge your friends to origami-making competitions over Zoom or FaceTime — or you can simply impress people with a display of complex origami structures when they can finally come over again!
Origami is just one simple way to learn more about Japanese tradition, foster a love for travel that goes beyond plane tickets and hotel bookings. Unsure of how to get started? No worries - there are plenty of helpful resources and there are instructional videos on-line for a range of different skill levels.
Origami is a highly accessible hobby as it only requires paper, which can be found at a local retailer.
(Written by Adam Waxman for JNTO)
Adam Waxman is the Publisher of DINE and Destinations magazine, and has written for several travel guides from Fodor’s to Lonely Planet. Adam has lived and worked in Kyoto and Tokyo, and is passionate about Japan travel. For 2 consecutive years, he has been appointed by the Commissioner of Japan Tourism Agency, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Tourism, as the member of Advisory Board