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Exploring Origami

Origami Trivia


The crane is the most famous origami figure.

1) The thousand paper cranes

The folded paper crane is a well-known origami figure. Probably everybody in Japan has made at least one. According to Japanese tradition, one way to pray for good health is by folding a thousand origami cranes. Sometimes if a person is very sick, his or her friends will work together to fold a thousand cranes and string them on thread into long chains, which they take to the sick friend. Chains of a thousand paper cranes ease pain and sadness and bring hope to people who see them.


An Edo-period book shows how to fold multiple connected cranes with just one piece of paper. (Photo courtesy of the Nippon Origami Association)

Since ancient times, the Japanese have viewed the crane as a symbol of long life and good fortune. Nowadays, when people refer to "a thousand origami cranes," they generally really mean a thousand. But in the past, the phrase "a thousand origami cranes" referred to a large number of paper cranes. The number did not have to be exactly 1,000.

2) Sadako and the thousand cranes


Children's Peace Monument (Photo courtesy of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum)

"Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes" is the story of a girl who died of leukemia. On August 6, 1945, when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Sadako Sasaki was just two years old. Though the bomb did not kill her and she suffered no immediate injury, she developed leukemia when she was 11 years old. Sadako had heard that a person could make her wish come true by folding a thousand paper cranes. Wishing for good health, Sadako began folding a thousand paper cranes. But she died at age 12, before her project was completed, it is said, and her classmates finished folding her cranes for her after she died.


Children send in cranes they have folded in prayer for peace. (Photo courtesy of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum)

Sadako's classmates also collected donations from schools throughout Japan and used the funds to create a monument to children who had been victims of the atomic bomb. Piles of thousand-crane chains sent by people from all over the world surround the monument. To people everywhere, the story of Sadako has come to symbolize the hope that no child will ever again be killed by an atomic bomb.

3) The Nippon Origami Museum


Nippon Origami Museum (Photo courtesy of the Nippon Origami Museum)

Japan now has a museum dedicated to origami. The Nippon (Japan) Origami Museum is located in the city of Kaga in Ishikawa Prefecture. The museum collection includes an amazing 100,000 figures made of folded paper. The Nippon Origami Museum also offers origami classes and has a multimedia space that gives visitors a chance to enjoy the world of origami more deeply.

origami figures

"Cinderella's Island"

origami figures

"Feudal Lord's Procession" (Photos courtesy of the Nippon Origami Museum)

There are origami lovers everywhere, not just in Japan, and the Nippon Origami Museum has a special section for figures sent by people from 20 countries all over the world. Many of the figures have a very different quality from native Japanese origami pieces. Another area of the museum is dedicated to a display of ultra-miniature origami figures. And Dinosaur Land is a display of folded paper dinosaurs inspired by the many fossils found in Ishikawa Prefecture and neighboring Fukui Prefecture.