Yami's Corner - The Magic of Origami
THE MAGIC OF ORIGAMI
Conveying the Japanese mind in America, beyond race, age and language differences
Having gone to America with great dreams, I was in the depths of despair in the mid 80’s. It appeared as though I had succeeded in the business of import and sales of general merchandise and had achieved my American Dream but as a result of my own arrogance, a huge compensation for damage was claimed against me and my business collapsed. On the very day that my wife and I were divorced, I heard that my son was killed in an accident. His sports kite was stuck on a tree and he fell down to his death while climbing up the tree to retrieve the kite. That happened in autumn of 1986. My family had broken up and I was flat broke. Origami was the only thing that supported me.
The tree decorated with paper cranes
My son, who had come to America at the age of two, had some memories of origami. When he was about to leave home to go to college, I gave him an origami book. I was not able to enjoy the origami that I loved during the time of war and food shortages in Japan and to make up for that, I wanted to hand to my son a part of the ‘Japanese mind’. About half a year before his death, I visited his dormitory at Duke University in North Carolina and was very happy to see that origami book left open in his room. He was folding paper cranes and stringing them up to give to his sister.
I had sold off my house in New Jersey and was living in a cheap apartment when friends of my late son came to visit me during Christmas. An origami book and some coloured papers were about all that I had. The Christmas tree which my friend’s daughter gave me was lying on the floor. One of the girls was looking through the origami book and started to fold paper cranes from the instructions. Soon, I was also folding and the rest of my late son’s friends were also folding. A few hours later the Christmas tree was decorated with many paper cranes. It was an indescribably sweet and comforting moment. That was the first time that I had experienced ‘the magic of origami’.
In February 1987, I moved from New Jersey to California. I put the urn containing my son’s ashes into the car and drove to California, leaving behind paper cranes at gasoline stands and in motels. My feelings for my son were stirred up again in those paper cranes.
On many occasions, I would hold ‘origami parties’ inside airplanes. In the first of these ‘parties’, I was starting to fold something when I sensed curious gazes in my direction. With a smile, I then gave a sheet of coloured paper each to the passenger sitting on my left and the one sitting on my right. Without speaking a word, I lifted my hands where they can see well and proceeded to fold in a manner that allowed them to follow. Soon, many people, including the stewardesses, were folding and we ended up with many models and everybody was happy. When it was time to get off the plane, everybody was shocked when I opened my mouth to speak since I was only moving my hands until then. Apparently, they thought I was speech-impaired and could not speak.
Becoming an origami creator
There is a hidden trick behind every magic act but there is none in origami. Yet, for 30 years or so, the term ‘magic of origami’ has been often used in America. With origami, there is not only the surprise of changing a form from flat to 3 dimensional, but there is also this power to evoke pleasant emotions. Without question, I can feel that there is a fascination that goes beyond race, age and language differences, which connects one heart to another.
In March 1990, I even organized an origami festival in a shopping centre in New Port Beach, California. I took on the challenge of folding large origami models and folded models of elephant, whale etc measuring around 2 metres while drenched in sweat. The opportunities to teach origami at elementary school after school hours and at community centers had also increased.
In 1998, at the OUSA Convention, my work, titled “Fireworks” was well received and regarded as an outstanding work in the modular origami category and I became the latest addition to the list of origami creators. Folding multiple pieces of papers and then assembling them into one piece of work is referred to as modular origami. It was through a fortuitous discovery that I created this piece of work that resembles a doughnut-shaped pot stand, When you invert the model outwards from the centre, the colours change. I named it “Fireworks”.
Nowadays, I wake up at 3 every morning. I work for 3 hours processing payment slips, vouchers etc at a fish market in Los Angeles and in the afternoons, I would go to origami classes to teach. In the weekends, together with 2 other friends, Yami Yamauchi, the origami creator, will take part in various events. The Cherry Blossom Festival in our city is a big event for the people of Japanese descent living in the West Coast and one of the attractions for this year was the Origami Stage Show by the 3 of us.
Participating in the OUSA Convention in New York
The OUSA Convention will be held in New York from the 22nd of this month. I will be sending a collaborative work titled “Life Is Beautiful” which is a large piece of work measuring 2 metres in height. It was completed by assembling 420 units of the “Pandora’s Box” and 7 units of rainbow coloured “Fireworks” which were designed by me. It would be tough to transport this piece of work to the Convention but many friends are looking forward to seeing this work and are giving me their support.
Last spring, I managed to go back to Japan for the first time in 20 years. My siblings and relatives were all very surprised to see me as I had been completely out of touch. The only person who was interested in origami was my eldest brother’s 5 year old grandson and I have fond memories of watching him display his genius in origami.
America-based origami creator
(Translated from an article published in Japanese in The Nihon Keizai Shimbun on 1 June 2007)
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