Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell


The Senbazuru Orikata
The Senbazuru Orikata is a book of origami designs, woodcuts and poetry published in Japan in 1797. Senbazuru means 1000 cranes. Orikata is an old word that means the same as origami.

The number 1000 in the title is used symbolically. If you folded all the designs in the book you would only have folded about 250 cranes in all. In Japan, cranes are associated with good fortune and long life.

This style of folding is sometimes called Rokoan style.

The pictures below show two facing pages from the Senbazuru Orikata. The page on the left gives the instructions. The page on the right shows the result. The title of the model, 'Tethered Boats', is given by the characters at the top right of the right hand page. The other characters on the same page are a poem.

You will see from the diagram on the left that the original square of paper is divided into one large square and 24 smaller squares by means of slits. Each of these squares is then folded into a crane to create the design. Note that the slits don't completely separate the squares, so that, once folded, the cranes are linked at beak, tail or wing-tip. This is only possible with strong stiff paper. (Sellotape also comes in handy - though it wasn't available back in 1797.) Since there are 25 squares and only 18 cranes in the design 7 of the cranes must be folded from double-layered squares.

The most complex design featured in the Senbazuru Orikata is the 'Hundred Cranes' shown below. Strangely, perhaps, instructions for creating the 'Hundred Cranes' are not included in the book. The pattern of slits on the left would produce the correct number of cranes (in fact 97 rather than 100) but the crane folded from the large central square would be much smaller in comparison to the others than the illustration suggests.