Taj Mahal
A paper model of the Taj Mahal. (Masahiro Chatani)

Internet Fuels Paper Craft Boom
October 4, 2001

Many years ago foreign visitors to Japan were surprised to see that Japanese homes were made largely of wood and paper. Making things from paper is a craft that Japanese people have long excelled at and a hobby that brings pleasure to many. Origami is a traditional Japanese pastime where a single square of paper is folded in different ways to create shapes like cute animals. Today's paper crafts, though, have gone far beyond the level of simple origami and include some exceptionally detailed works. The Internet and personal computers have made it possible for all kinds of people to enjoy this activity, raising the profile of paper crafts among both young and old.

Origamic Architecture
People enjoy many different types of paper crafts, from simple handicrafts that can be done by children to complex masterpieces requiring hours of painstaking work. One person at the forefront of the current boom in paper crafts is Masahiro Chatani, professor emeritus at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Chatani is a specialist in building design and has made replicas of some of the world's most famous buildings, including the Empire State Building in New York, the White House in Washington, and Izumo Shrine in Shimane Prefecture. Each of his miniature buildings was made by folding a single sheet of white paper.

Chatani began this work about 20 years ago. His magnificent constructions, made by intricately cutting and folding the paper, have been praised overseas and are known as "origamic architecture." Chatani's work has been exhibited in art museums in Japan and other countries. He has published dozens of books of paper patterns, including some in English and Korean. Chatani even holds classes on paper craft.

Internet Fuels Boom
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As the number of people who use personal computers and the Internet at home has increased, some websites have begun offering paper patterns for free. After printing the pattern onto craft paper, all the user has to do is cut, fold, and assemble the paper according to the pattern. Motorcycle manufacturer Yamaha Motor Co., for example, has placed on its website paper patterns that allow people to recreate its motorcycles down to the smallest parts. The company began this free service four years ago and now offers about 30 patterns, including designs for making animals and seasonal scenes. The website averages some 3,000 hits a day.

On its website, meanwhile, the First Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Otaru, Hokkaido, carries paper designs of eight types of ships, such as patrol ships. The West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) provides paper patterns of more than 40 types of trains on its website. Paper patterns of vehicles, such as the Osaka Municipal Fire Department's fire trucks and ambulances, are also popular. Canon Inc., a leading manufacturer of PC printers, offers a place on its website where users can download paper patterns for famous buildings and traditional clothes from around the world. There are a number of private websites that carry such patterns as well.

Making models and other objects from paper is a hobby that can be enjoyed by anyone with a pair of scissors. The popularity of this pastime has exploded thanks to the Internet and personal computers. As Japan's economy continues to experience troubles, this is an activity that the whole family can enjoy for hours on end without spending much money. The joy of paper crafts looks set to continue to attract new converts.

Copyright (c) 2001 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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