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Two years ago, a mysterious 20-second video clip triggered some unexpected buzz on the Web site YouTube. In the segment, an ordinary-looking housewife draws an invisible line across the chest of a shirt with her finger. Then she pinches the shirt under the armpit and at the shoulder, does a quick flipping motion, and then presents the audience with a perfectly folded shirt. People were baffled.

Commenters raved about the so-called “revolutionary” ninja trick, and viewers starting making copycat videos showing the “Japanese way of folding a T-shirt” in English. The video was so simple — one woman, one shirt, one swift move — but what it accomplished was profound. For many of the millions who viewed that video, it was their first time seeing an urawaza in action.

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