Brief History of Origami


Brief history about origami

“Origami” is actually a Japanese word that means paper folding as “orimasu” is the verb for folding and “kami” is paper in Japanese. Somehow they are being placed together to form origami and it was adopted first in English then in other languages.

The Chinese invented paper, so they might be the first to fold paper. They brought papers to Japan where the Japanese used them for folding ceremonial wrappers (tsutsumi). Two earliest Japanese books are the Senbazuru Orikata and Chushingura Orikata both dating from 1797.

As modern origami avoids cutting and so paper folding did not develop much more than the flapping bird. The flapping bird was brought to Europe from Japan about 1880. It was quickly absorbed into the long tradition of children’s folds, but the European folds were restricted to simple hats, boxes and boats.

While in Spain, Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unanumo (1864-1936) also came out with some angular animals by manipulating the bird base. From there, origami is also spread to South America where newer designs had been developed.

Back in Japan, Isao Honda made collections of both traditional and modern origami and new books began to appear. Some of Isao work appeared as early as 1944. Akira Yoshizawa came along after World War 2 when he started to design and develop new folds.

In 1950s, paper folding began to develop through the efforts of 3 people, Gershon Legman and Lillian Oppenheimer from United States and Robert Harbin from Britain. Gershon Legman established contact with Akira Yoshizawa and Ligia Montoya, while Lillian Oppenheimer actively publicised origami in New York. Robert Harbin also brought origami to the public in Britain.

New folders such as Fred Rohm, Neal Elias and many more began to join in the fun of origami due to the efforts of the 3 persons. This have resulted in many new and complex folds been developed. New folding techniques were also developed by them.

The British Origami Society was set up in 1967 and members of the club broke new grounds in origami just when people began to think that the limits of folding had been reached in 1970s.The new Western techniques were then taken back to Japan where younger generation of folders combined the old and the new to come out with more complicated and newer possibilities for the paper.

Due to the major efforts that so many have put in, origami has now grown to be an international movement where many countries are put in regular contact and regular conventions are held by each other’s societies. It is also good to know that Singapore is also actively involved in origami and is also in constant contact with other countries’ origami societies.