The Lister List

Circular Origami

Sunny Origami a.k.a. Circular Origami or Round Origami.

The Books of Keinichi and Hideko Fukuda

The subject of folding from circular paper has come up again recently and there has been mention of some recent Japanese books on the subject. Having dug deep in my book mine, I have found some books that are relevant so I am going to pass on the results of my searches.

First I must mention the books in the "Sunny Origami" series, which were colourful books for children published in Japan in English between 1966 and 1972. I have ten of them and I think that I may have all of those published. They follow in a tradition of colourful origami books, which began with those of Isao Honda and continued with the "Happy Origami" and "Jolly Origami" series and the smaller "Pop-up Origami" books, all by Tatsuo Miyawaki. All these books are delightfully coloured card-covered books which have actual folded models stuck to the pages. They are all of them about simple origami

of the ordinary kind folded from squares and each book come with a small supply of standard square origami paper. The "Happy Origami" and "Jolly Origami" books are in a horizontal format with pages 10 1/2 inches wide and 7 1/2 inches deep and they have a cord binding. All the books were published in Japan by Biken Sha and distributed by the Japan Publications Trading Company

The "Sunny Origami " books are in the same format as the "Happy Origami" books, just as colourful and with actual folded models stuck to the pages Each includes a small packet of paper circles of different sizes and colours. However, the author of this series is Keinichi Fukuda. All the books were published by a different firm, Jomo Kagaku Kogyosha but distributed by Japan Publications 'Trading Company. There were no ISBN numbers The list of the "Sunny Origami " books is as follows:

Angel Book, 1966.

Bow-wow Book 1968.

Swan Book. 1968.

The Life of Buddha. 1968.

The Life of Shinran Shonin 1969.

The Life of Jesus Christ. 1969.

Lion Book. 1970

Frog Book. 1972.

Cat book. 1972.

Little Red Riding Hood. 1972.

I should also mention another book I similar format with the title

"Triangular Origami", Rabbit Book published by Jomo Kagaku Kogyosha in 1969.

The authors were Keinichi Fukuda and Hideko Fukuda and it is interesting that the book carries is a list of patent applications pending in Japan, USA, Italy and Germany. The Preface, written by Professor Masato Takahashi states:

"The brother and sister team of Keinichi and Hideko Fukuda have published numerous books for use in creative art. Their books "Sunny Origami" were particularly successful, being well received in both Japan and the United states. With this book, they advance one step further and show how to make origami creations from triangular paper".

Curiously enough, the models in this book are not folded from triangular paper, but from ordinary square origami paper folded into the kite base. This ignores the fact that a kite base is not a triangle. A small supply of pre-folded kite bases in different sizes comes with the book. Whether or not any more books on Triangular Origami were published, I do not know. From what Prof. Takahashi writes, I suspect that these books (and probably the Happy Origami books as well) were previously published in Japanese. In view of the fact that their formats are identical, it is curious that the "Happy Origami" series and the "Sunny Origami" series were published by different publishers. One wonders whether they were connected.

In the Author's Greeting at the beginning of the "Angel Book", which was the first book in the Sunny Origami series, Keinichi Fukuda writes:

"Up till now we have used square paper to make our origami animals, plants and other forms, but the origami in Sunny Book while keeping the familiar origami characteristics, uses the circle as the basic shape. Sunny origami shows you how to make even more lively animals and even more beautiful flowers with curved lines. In our daily lives, when we want to make something beautiful, we must remember that beautiful things always have a complete harmony balanced with variety. To achieve this balanced harmony of variety and uniformity Sunny Book makes use of the kind of golden section we find in the Venus de Milo in every stage of the circle and by doing so bears a part of the burden of education in plastic arts in Japan. Using the circle, everyone of you will be able easily to make beautiful skilful representations of a lot of things. I am sure that the animals, plants and goddesses that all of you see in your dreams are as bright and beautiful as the sun."

By the side of this idealistic writing there is a diagram of a circle within a square within a circle within a square: four circles and four squares in all. It is stated that this gives the different ratios used in the book. Is this the "kind of golden section" that Keinichi Fukuda mentions? However, some of the straight lines are printed as bold lines to make a distinct pattern. It may represent a character of Japanese writing, perhaps Fukuda's name. Or it may mean something mystical.

In the foreword to Bow-wow Book, Professor Masato Takahashi whom we have met before, writes:

"The round-origami method, devised through long years of experience by Keinichi and Hideko Fukuda and very popular at home and abroad, stimulates the desire for creative Activity in children by offering them the pleasure of combining pieces of paper in an unlimited number of varied and pleasing forms.

"This newest of their books 'Round origami, Fun and Ideas', by avoiding the stale copying principle and employing basic hints around which children devise their own free creations, brings a new world of individual creativity to the very young ."

Now this is interesting. Presumably "Round origami, Fun and Ideas" was the original name of the book in Japanese. It also reveals that Keinichi's sister, Hideko Fukuda was also involved in compiling the book, even though her name does not appear the book as co-author. But more interesting is that the book is designed to avoid the "stale copying principle". We have heard all this before, It was part of the long-standing perception that traditional origami, where a pupil merely follows a rigid set of instructions is not good for encouraging creativity in children. It was the principle that led to the elimination of paperfolding from the curricula of schools in all Western countries as well as in Japan.

But Sunny Origami is different. Gone are the sequences of diagrams with instructions for folding models. Here, the circles of paper are, indeed folded, but in very simple ways and there is no rigid insistence on location points. The folds are merely intended to make the basic forms for assembling in collages, to make pictures. Shapes are made from circles of different sizes and they are stuck on the background to make up the picture. Small circles are used as eyes and noses. Amazingly, I found among Keinichi's creations close prototypes of the Teletubbies complete with round bodies, round expressionless faces and with antennae on the tops of their heads!.

Of course, children are encouraged to make their own pictures and they are given plenty of techniques for making new shapes and for using the curved edges of the circles appropriately in making animals, flowers and people, or usually, just parts of them. Whether children could archive the inventiveness of the Fukudas is somewhat doubtful, but this applies to all those collage shapes of whatever kind that are sold for children's play.

In fact, I find the Keinichi (and, apparently, Hideko) Fukuda's work not only to be attractive, but also to be inventive and creative. Some of it reminds me of the techniques for making Japanese paper dolls. As the books progress, they get more and more complicated, especially in the books about the three religious leaders. After that, in the later books they become simple again.

Throughout the ten "Sunny Origami" books, however, the collage principle applies and the techniques employed cannot be described as "origami" in the sense it is known in the origami societies. There is no sensational discovery of a new principle or of new techniques of folding that are solely appropriate to circular paper and which would not be possible from square paper. It is only the curves edges of the paper that are preserved to be used appropriately in the pictures.

"Sunny Origami" presumably had a measure of success, although I suspect that more copies were sold by the colourful and attractive presentation than by the substance of the technique put forward. It appears that packets of circular paper continued to be sold. But the last "Sunny Origami" book was published in 1972 and nothing more has appeared since then in English.

Whether the books continued to sell in Japanese, I do not know, However. In July, 1994 I visited the fascinating shop selling all sorts of eastern products and books with the name "Neal Street East". It is situated in Neal Street, near Covent Garden in London. Here, I bought another book on circular origami. This time it was a ten inch by seven inch-thick booklet in thin card covers in vertical format. No stuck-in figures, this time, but the same cheerful and colourful page layout that is familiar from countless Japanese books. The year of publication is not given in Western style and I am unable to work out the year in Japanese style. There is no ISBN number. For those wishing to compare the book with others, it has a large black and white Giant Panda on the front cover, together with a simple green frog and two greetings cards with dolls made by collage.

The helpful Japanese shop assistant kindly translated the Japanese title and the author's name. The title is "Marui Origami", which translates as "Circle Origami" in English. The name of the author is Kei Fukuda. I have no hesitation in identifying Kei Fukuda as the same person as Keinichi Fukuda. At the very beginning of the book he prints the square-within-a-circle diagram that I have mentioned before, although without the mysterious thickening of some of the straight lines.

The book begins with a series of animals, all made up on the collage principle. All have eyes, ears and noses made up of folded or unfolded small circles. One of the most complicated animals is a crab with eight legs, pincers and two eyes, but still made up from separate folded circles of red and white, arranged and glued on to a background.

Nearly half way through the book, the approach changes to instructions for making pictures of Japanese people, which resemble some kinds of Japanese paper dolls. Accepting them for what they are, they are very colourful and the section concludes with a lively collage picture of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Between pages 46 and 50 the book becomes very interesting. Here is something we have never seen before, no less than instructions for folding circles using origami techniques of the kind with which we are familiar. The question we have to ask is whether the use of circular paper for these models justifies itself.

The first of these models is a cicada. However, the finished model discloses little of its circular origin, except for the small curve in the wings.. The next model, a bat, shows a similar reticence in displaying its circular origin. I have not tried folding the model, (except cerebrally), but I do think that the circular base I essential for the achievement of the finished model. After this a series of boats makes full use of the curvature of the circle to form their hulls. A bow tie is less successful. I liked a cat that makes use of the curve for its back and its tail. A sailing boat uses the curves to good effect, as does a water lily leaf. Towards the end there is a series of Tato (or small multi-sided twist-purses) in the manner of Michio Uchiyama. But as the circle is first folded into a pentagon or a hexagon, there is a suggestion here that the circle is not being put to proper use. But it is very interesting to see Keinichi attempting to come to terms with his chosen medium.

I was again in London in March 1997 when I visited the Japan Centre in Piccadilly. I bought another book in the same style, this time with pages 8 inches by 10 inches. Again there was no date or ISBN number. Once more I was told that the book was called "Marui Origami" ("Circle origami") and that it was by Kei Fukuda For those wishing to compare it with other books, it has collages of three young Japanese girls on the cover together with two smaller, elegant Japanese dolls.

The content is much the same mixture as before. Most of the models are simple collages, although they are interspersed with origami-type figures. A Samurai helmet is folded, but blatantly ignores the circularity of the paper. There is a simple, but attractive fan-tailed dove (at least, I think that is what it is supposed to be), a pair of bootees, and a chopsticks wrapper. There is also a section of folding collages paper dolls as in the other book. Some folds re used decorate fans (the sort that do not fold), but they are all done as collages.

This later book is published by the same publisher as the other one (it carries a picture of the first book towards the back.) Both books form part of a large series of books covering all manner of crafts.

Taken together, the books on circular origami disappoint. They are an effort to fold from circular paper in a new kind of origami, but none of them succeeds in showing any great advantages over square paper. The earlier "Sunny origami" series are deliberately designed for children and set their sights low. Keinichi Fukuda also seems to have doubts about the educational value of traditional origami. So despite his undoubtedly attractive designs, they do not get any further than collages.

In the more recent books, Keinichi Fukuda does make an attempt to find a circular origami in the true sense of the concept. To small extent he succeeds, but his creations still demonstrate the true fact that simple folds in the plane crease in straight lines, so the geometry does not differ from that of folding the square. To sum up, we can do not more than to commend Keinichi Fukuda and his sister, Hideako for a brave extent to forge into unexplored territory.

David Lister.

24th August, 2001.

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Rabbit by Stephen O'Hanlon