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Nagoya teen brings 100 paper insects to life at an art exhibit

Chunichi Shimbun

With just a pair of scissors and plain drawing paper, Shinichiro Ishikawa, a 15-year-old high school student from Nagoya, can quickly create lifelike cutouts of insects such as a pink mantis poised to take down its prey or a yellow swallowtail butterfly with its wings spread wide.

He has contributed around 100 new insect-themed cutout artworks for an exhibition being held at Nagoya University Museum through Oct. 21.

He picked up the art of paper cutting at a very young age and, combined with a strong fascination for insects, has been polishing his skills since.

When Ishikawa creates his insects, he doesn’t need to look at the actual object or images. A vision of the design already exists in his mind before he takes a scissor to the paper. The colored drawing paper he uses is readily available at any ¥100 store.

It takes him only 20 to 30 minutes to finish one piece, folding wings or legs for the finishing touches.

“I can make any insect that I’ve seen before,” said the high school freshman.

His smallest piece is a 2-cm-long scarlet dwarf dragonfly.

Ishikawa made his first paper insect at the age of 4, after he saw a Japanese rhinoceros beetle at a supermarket and was “struck by how cool” it was.

In the beginning he only cut out flat shapes but gradually learned to fold wings, bend legs and create bellows for the stomach to make them look more real.

He throws out a full bag of paper scraps every day.

Asked why he loves insects, he said: “Their antlers, sense of touch and shapes are all a result of adaptation to the environment and evolution in order to live, making them tough survivors.”

While most entomology hobbyists tend to prefer only specific types of insects, such as butterflies or dragonflies, Ishikawa said he likes all insects.

He keeps a few hundred local and imported bugs of 50 different species of insects and arachnids in his home, including the oft-despised cockroaches and spiders, and observes them daily to make his art.

Children of all ages are amazed when watching him create paper insects. One time, a child who hates insects told him delightedly: “That was the first time I touched an insect.”

He has now become a leading member of a group of insect enthusiasts in Nagoya, which he joined when he was in the fifth grade, and teaches children who come to its events the basics of insects.

However, he feels that the number of children who take a keen interest in bugs or nature is on the decline.

“I hope they’ll learn to like insects through my paper art, and then grow to like nature as well, which may inspire them to protect the environment,” he said.

Ishikawa would like to create more life-like insects and will continue working to improve his craft.

The Nagoya exhibition is free of charge and Ishikawa will conduct a demonstration on the last day. For inquiries, call the museum at 052-789-5767.

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Sept. 7.