Japan Culture Lab

I explain questions of Japanese culture easily.

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When did origami (paper folding) start? How has origami been developed? What do 1,000 folded cranes named “Senbazuru” represent?

      2017/10/19

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Have you ever made 1,000 cranes with origami paper before?

I think some made them together with their classmates for their friend who were in hospital and other did with their team members to achieve good results.

In the first place, why do people make Senbazuru (1,000 cranes)?

Let’s look into the origin and history of origami (paper folding) and Senbazuru this time!

 

  

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When did origami start? How has origami been developed?

Although there are some theories about the origin of origami such as it was originated in China or Spain, all of them don’t have any clear grounds.

In Japan, origami has been developed its own tradition.

It is believed that Europe also had its own origami tradition in the 19th century and these two forms merged when Japan opened to the west and created a current origami form.

Today, origami has been widespread throughout the world, even a Japanese term “origami” has been used in many countries including Europe and the United States.

Some say origami started in the Heian period (794-1185) in Japan, but there is no clear ground for this.

However, the term “origami” was used in Heian period.

Origami was not used to play with like making animal figures with paper like we do now, but to write letters or lists as a form of writing by folding paper in half vertically and placing the crease down.

In the Edo period (1603-1868), origami began being used as a certificate for artifacts or swords and the term “Origami Tsuki (a gift with a certificate)” was created.

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Origami instructional books were published in the Edo period and many complex and creative origami designs have been created since the Edo period (1868-1912)

Origami is said to have been called as the present name since the Showa period (1926-1989).

Before that, it was known by a variety of names, including “orisue (folded boxes)”, “orikata (ways of folding)”, and “orimono (folded items)”

 

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What do “Senbazuru (1000 folded cranes)” or “Orizuru (one folded crane)” represent?

People usually make Senbazuru or Orizuru to pray for their wishes such as health recovery or to symbolize peace or non-nuclear.

In Japan, cranes have been considered to bring luck since ancient times.

As there is an old Japanese saying “the crane lives for 1,000 years, the tortoise 10,000 years.”, they are a symbol for longevity. People believe that each time they make an origami crane, their life spans will be extended. Therefore, making origami cranes become popular among ordinary people in the Edo period (1603-1868).

 

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While each of folded paper crane is called “Orizuru”, when 1,000 of paper cranes are folded and threaded together is called “Senbazuru”

Why 1000 cranes? Although there is no clear answer to this question, some people say this is because cranes live for 1,000 years or because 1,000 is a large number and large numbers are considered to bring luck.

Senbazuru has become a symbol for non-nuclear after being inspired by the story of Sadako Sasaki, who became the model of the Children’s Peace Monument (“Genbaku no Ko no Zo”) in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Sadako Sasaki was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. At the age of 12, she was diagnosed with leukemia, a kind of blood cancer.

She believed if a person folds 1,000 paper cranes, that person’s wish will come true and decided to fold 1,000 cranes to hope that she would get well again. Unfortunately, she passed away after fighting against cancer for nine months.

After that, a large amount of donations was collected all over Japan and abroad and the Children’s Peace Monument (“Genbaku no Ko no Zo”) was built. The monument became a symbol of peace.

Today, about 10 tons of Senbazuru are delivered to the park every year. These cranes are offered before the monument.

 

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Origami is a toy many Japanese people have played with since they were a child.

As a Japanese person, the fact that the term origami is used all over the world makes me feel proud.

Some accommodations where tourists from abroad often stay show their hospitality with origami, such as placing orizuru on a pillow of each guest or making origami cranes together with their guests and providing them as a memorable gift.

 

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