There is more to origami than just folding a sheet of paper. These pages show how it can make life more fun and inspire dreams worldwide.
Written by Torikai Shin-ichi and Sanada Kuniko
Photos by Sugawara Chiyoshi, Kawada Masahiro and Kono Toshihiko
Mount Yonami is affectionately known as the Toyomatsu Fuji by the locals in Jinsekikogen-cho. At its summit (elevation, 663 m) is a tower reaching an additional 26 meters up. This is the Toyomatsu Paper Airplane Tower, and from the lookout near the top you have a 360-degree panoramic view of the Chugoku Mountains. Mount Yonami is on the border between Hiroshima and Okayama prefectures.
The tower was the brainchild of Toda Takuo, the chairman of the Japan Origami Airplane Association. In 2002, the municipal government asked him for ideas on how to boost the economy of the local community, and his answer—attract tourists with a tower—became reality the next year. A national origami airplane championship was held there the same year. Two more championships have been held since.
“The tower is the first in the world built just for flying origami airplanes,” says Toda, taking a plane he folded nimbly himself, and launching it from one of the tower's windows. It catches an upward air current and glides off in style over the mountains. “Wow~!” is the natural reaction from the people watching.
Toda was only a boy when he got involved with making origami airplanes. His interest kept growing and he established the origami airplane association in 1995. It now has about 2,000 members throughout Japan.
“Each plane is made from one sheet of paper. No glue, no scissor cuts. The paper takes on new value as a thing that can fly. That's a big part of the fascination. Another part is that anyone can make a paper plane and make it fly. And another part is that your technique determines how well it will fly. And of course, there's the thrill of seeing it soar so high!”
For Toda, words have little weight compared to action. He has designed and folded about 500 types of origami airplanes so far. His record, a 19-second flight indoors in still air, has yet to be broken. The association has branches in France and Thailand, and his dream is to make the tower a destination for origami airplane folders worldwide.
“We're going to hold the World Championships in 2010, and hope to have association branches in 15 countries by then.”