Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell


Formal and Ceremonial Paperfolding
This page attempts to record what is known about the history of Formal and Ceremonial Paperfolding both in Japan and in Western Europe / America. Please contact me if you know any of this information is incorrect or if you have any other information that should be added. Thank you.

In Japan

During the Edo period paperfolding was used to create formal or ceremonial paperfolds known as Tsutsumi, or wrappers, each design of wrapper being associated with a food or flower, and thus also often with a particular occasion or day of the year.

Formal wrappers which were intended to contain strips of dried abalone are known as Noshi.

The earliest record of the folding of Tsutsumi comes from the book 'Onna Chohoki' (Women's Treasury) published in 1692.


Ocho and Mecho Butterflies are a type of Tsutsumi which were, and still sometimes are, attached to sake kettles during wedding ceremonies.The earliest known pictures of these butterflies also occur in the 'Onna Chohoki'.


Another related formal / ceremonial paperfold is The Floral Sake Container Cover. Once again the first evidence of this design that I know of is found in pictures in the 'Onna Chohoki'


In Western Europe / America

In 18th Century Germany square Patenbriefs (baptismal certificates) were often folded inwards to create a small package, perhaps intended to hold gifts of money from the Godparents. The earliest example I know of dates from 1763.


The leaving of Visiting / Calling Cards was an important aspect of social activity among the upper classes in late 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries. At some point, probably in the early to mid 19th Century, the habit developed of folding over one corner of the card to show that you had delivered it in person rather than had it delivered by a servant. Many cards folded in this way have survived.

In various places, at various times, more complex codes developed which attached formal meanings to the folding in of different edges or corners of these cards.