National | Regional voices: Chubu

Gifu washi apprentice publishes book of 'insanely difficult' origami animals

Chunichi Shimbun

Yuga Arisawa, 21, who has loved making complex artworks using origami since he was a child, traveled throughout Japan as a high school student looking for the best paper — fine but able to endure nearly 100 folds.

In the end, he found the perfect washi (traditional handmade Japanese paper) at the studio Corsoyard in Mino, Gifu Prefecture — a city with a more than 1,300-year history producing washi. What is more surprising is that he was so taken with the washi that he moved from his hometown of Sapporo and started working at the studio.

In August, he published his first book, “Origami Oji no Kawaii! Keredo Muzukashisugiru Origami” (“Prince Origami’s Kawaii but Insanely Difficult Origami”), which gives detailed instructions with photographs on making origami that sometimes involve more than 100 folds.

Arisawa has been a fan of origami since he was in kindergarten. When he was a sixth-grader, he asked his parents to buy a book of complicated origami.

Since he liked insects and kept a giraffe stag beetle at his home, he wanted to make an origami of the beetle and created his first original work when he was a first-year student at junior high school.

As he worked on more intricate designs, he began using washi that is thin but strong and won’t tear. He went to a washi shop in Sapporo to purchase sheets that he liked, and gradually started to think of making paper himself.

When he was in his third year of high school, he visited washi factories across the nation to look for a place to work and was impressed by Kenji Sawaki, 39, head of Corsoyard, who was making his living by paper-making.

Arisawa went to the studio again later and talked of his passion for paper-making. After graduating from high school, he moved to Mino and started working at Corsoyard as an apprentice.

While he makes paper based on purchase orders from customers, he is also developing origami accessories and washi suited for origami. One of his works is a cat-shaped accessory created by using a piece of 5-square-centimeter translucent origami paper made by mixing paper mulberries and ganpi plant fiber. The product, priced at ¥10,000, is one of the best-selling items at the studio.

He has also learned to dye washi using such ingredients as persimmon tannin and charcoal to add variety to his works.

Sawaki said Arisawa “has a special sense as a washi user, just like people who regularly use washi, such as paper lantern-makers and artisans involved in repairs of cultural properties.”

“He is also a quick learner,” Sawaki said.

In his book, Arisawa provides instructions on how to create 16 kinds of animals using origami. All of them can be folded from one piece of paper, either washi or an ordinary origami sheet. The book gives a recommended size of paper to make the animals and offers explanations for each folding step.

The origami cats sold as accessories at the studio can be completed in 107 steps.

“I selected the works that may be hard to make but will give a sense of achievement when completed,” Arisawa said. “I hope people will try going a step beyond just enjoying it as a hobby and discover the joy of origami.”

The book, published by Kadokawa Corp., sells for ¥1,600 plus tax.

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Aug. 26.

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