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History of Origami: 1600s ~ Early 1700s

Let's go on the journey with us to see the Origami's history from the past to the present.

Where is the origin of Origami?

It can be supposed that ceremonial Origami had some impact on the born of Origami for recreational purposes.
Unfortunately, there remain no documents that recorded the exact period when people started to make recreational Origami.
Even so, it doesn't mean that there are no clues because we now see some accessories or ornaments with designs featuring some models of Origami.
Now, let's see the origami-featuring design which indicates what origami was like at that time.

1. The Oldest Paper Crane?

In 2018, an attachment of katana (刀, a Japanese sword) was found.
That is a handle of katana with reliefs of orizuru (折り鶴, paper crane).
The person who made this handle is thought to be Goto Eijo (後藤栄乗), a craftsman from the late 1500s to the early 1600s.
Based on the age he lived, the handle is the oldest antique which has an image of orizuru.

On this ground, orizuru had been familiar to people by the early 1600s at the latest. Guessing from this point, it can be thought that recreational origami had also been born at this age at the latest.

Nobuyuki, W. (2017). 最古の折り鶴いつから? 謎に迫る武士アクセサリー発見. The Asahi Shimbun Degital, February 22. *in Japanese

2. Old Age's Origami in Pattern Design

Down to the 18th century, a book was published in 1734.
That is "Ranma zushiki (欄間図式)," a design catalog for transom windows.
It has many pictures of various things, and among them is a picture of Origami.

[2-1] 'Orikata (折形)' on "Ramma Zushiki (欄間図式)"

As you can see in [2-1], there are various Origami models in this picture.
Most of them are popular among Japanese people even today. Such traditional models are called 'Densho Origami (伝承折り紙, traditional origami).'
"Ranma zushiki" indicates that Densho Origami had already been known to people by the 18th century.
However, this picture doesn't have the title of 'Origami,' but 'Orikata (折形).'
Orikata (or Orisue) was often adopted into designs for various things like ornaments, furniture, and kimono after the middle Edo period.


The information on the articles of 'Origami in the past' is based on the reference below. They were all retrieved on 8 March, 2021.

Etsuro, B. (1995). Origami (折り紙). In Encyclopedia nipponica 2001 (2nd ed.). Tokyo: Shogakukan. *in Japanese

National Diet Library. (November, 2008). 第151回常設展示 本の中の「おりがみ」.  *in Japanese

Masao, O. The History of Origami in Japan. Web-site of Japan Origami Academic Society. *in English

Yuko, I. (2012). A Study of History of Origami and Origami as Childcare Teaching Materials. Urawa Ronso (浦和大学『浦和論叢』), 46, 45-68. *in Japanese. An abstract in English is available.