History of Origami

Many people have speculated where origami originated, but no one knows for sure. Some say that it originated in China with the invention of paper, but to know for sure we would need a time machine. Origami started in Japan around the 6th century when Buddhist monks brought paper to Japan. The first origami dating back to the 6th century was used for religious ceremonies.  After that origami became a passing gift from samurai, to butterflies in wedding to symbolize the bride and groom. In Europe there was evidence of a cut and folded paper box made in 1444, and later paper boats in 1490.

Facts on Origami

  • Origami is derived from two Japanese words – Ori (folded) and Kami (paper).
  • The Japanese word for paper “kami” is the same written word as the Japanese word for spirit or god and certain origami models were part of their religious ceremonies.
  • Largest origami crane measures 256 ft 6 inches.
  • An ancient Japanese legend says that if you fold one thousand cranes you will be granted a wish
  • The smallest origami crane in the world was made by Naito Akira folding plastic film measuring 0.1 by 0.1 mm. The 82-year old uses special tools and a microscope.
  • There are at least a dozen national origami associations throughout the world including: US, Japan, France, Netherlands, UK, Spain, Germany, Australia, Italy, Poland, Russia, and China. The British Origami Society was the first association and was founded in London in 1967.

Educational Benefits of Origami


Folding origami can enhance cognitive development,  and behavioral skills. Origami has a link to math, and can help a developing child become a cooperative learner.  Origami is paper folding in specific steps to create a beautiful outcome, which stimulate areas of the brain due to the use of hands in this activity.

Behavioral Skills:

Origami greatly affects behavioral skills. Performing this activity in a group setting helps an individual learn how to appropriately act in collective environment. Furthermore,  origami teaches individuals about the importance of helping each other. For example, if a group of kids are folding origami together, and someone messes up or misses a step, another person can jump in and help them. Origami benefits your behavioral skills in a positive way, and can increase your overall mood.

Cooperative Learning:

Origami can be done alone, or with a group of people. The benefits of doing origami with a group is that you can learn from each other. Whether it’s someone else’s mistakes, or learning a different method, there are many opportunities to gain more knowledge. Doing origami with other people can lead to new friendships, because of the mutual interest everyone has.

A Link to Math:

Origami plays an important role in math. It initiates spatial reasoning, which is the skill to think about objects and to draw conclusions about those objects. Paper folding familiarizes math students with shapes such as rectangles, triangles, squares and circles, which are all useful in geometry. Furthermore, symmetry is also a vital aspect in origami, as well as geometry.

Cognitive Development:

Although origami is done physically using your hands, a big part of it is using your head. You need to think about the next steps, and how you’re going to fold the paper. Thought is required in this process for a successful result. As stated before, origami stimulates areas of your brain, and improve your overall thought process.





The Value of Origami

Many people use the art of origami as a therapeutic activity, just like Sadako Sasaki who started to fold paper cranes and hoped to make a wish and get better.

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes 

When Sadako Sasaki was 2 years old, an atomic bomb was dropped near her hometown in Hiroshima, Japan. She was blown out of the window, and miraculously suffered no injuries. However, ten years later, Sadako was diagnosed with leukemia caused by the radiation of the bomb. She was told she only had a year to live, so she spent most of her time in the hospital making cranes. Sadako wanted to make 1,000 cranes because she was inspired by the Japanese legend that one who created a thousand origami cranes would be granted a wish. Her wish was to live. In the book, it was stated that Sadako only folded 644 before she died, and her family and friends continued to make origami cranes to honor her.

A school in Japan makes 1,000 cranes and contributes it to the Sadako Sasaki memorial in Hiroshima to honor her.