NIPPONIA No. 41 June 15, 2007


Special Featuresp_star.gifOrigami

The world's smallest folded crane, made from a 0.1 x 0.1 mm square

Making a tiny origami model under a microscope takes all of his concentration. Naito Akira says he does this only on days when he is feeling energetic.

A crane folded from a piece of plastic film measuring 0.7 x 0.7 mm. The neck, wings, torso and other parts are remarkably similar to the shape of a real crane.

It all began during a boring conference. That was several decades ago, when he was still an employee of a company (he turns 85 this year). To escape the boredom, he took a piece of silver paper from a pack of cigarettes and began making a crane.

Naito Akira recalls, “That's when I became interested in origami. Soon, I was figuring out different ways to fold a paper crane. And then I set myself another challenge—making the crane as small as possible.”

In 1977, the British origami association held a competition to see who could make the world's smallest folded crane. Naito entered his crane, made with a piece of paper 3.5 mm square. “It was the smallest by far, and I won first prize!”

Suddenly he was a world champion. But why stop there?

“I found it easier than you'd think to make one from paper 1 mm square. But then around 1990 some people at a university in Niigata made one the same size. I didn't want to give up my ‘title’ so I went for smaller yet.”

He found it could not be done with ordinary paper, so he began using a plastic film instead. The film was only 4 microns thick (1 micron = .001 mm), so he needed special tools. He made them from wire and other materials, grinding them down to the right shape and size. Then he set to work with the plastic film under a microscope.

Before long he was beating his own record again—0.8mm square, then 0.7mm. In 1993 he had reduced it to 0.4mm square. The next step down, 0.3mm, took longer than he had hoped.

“My biggest enemy turned out to be static electricity. It made the crane fly off and disappear on me!”

But he kept at it. Finally, three years ago when he was 82, he succeeded in folding a crane from a square measuring just 0.1 x 0.1 mm.


Stunning “origami” dress

Japan was the theme of the Dior 2007 Spring/Summer Haute Couture Collection in Paris. What could be more imaginative than this gown in the collection? Inspired by origami, of course.