The Lister List

Dokuohtei Nakano

Dorigami wrote: "Nakano who wrote books with Eric Kenneway doing the drawings and the English specialised in several little books exploring one subject. I have a few of them. One is on several different kinds of butterflies, one is on several different kinds of cranes and I will check and see what others I have. I had dinner with the two of them in London and Nakano presented me personally with several of his booklets. Perhaps David Lister will tell us a little bit more about their collaboration. I don't think Nakano wrote any more books after Kenneway died".

Dorigami is referring to the Japanese folder Dokuohtei Nakano, who came into prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his postal origami courses in both Japanese and English. The parts of the courses were initially sent to subscribers at intervals by post and the courses were illustrated with actual folded models of the models featured.

Nakano's work was important because he was the first of the Japanese folders to be inspired by the new techniques that had been discovered by Western folders such as George Rhoades, Neal Elias and Fred Rohm. In fact, in some ways, he took these techniques much further and developed a whole series of complex bases which combine sections of different classic bases combined in different ways to form new bases. This kind of thing had, indeed, been suggested in Japan by Yoshizawa and Kosho Uchiyama, but neither of them had developed a system of folding derived from them. Nakano's developments were dazzing in their multiplicity and inventiveness.

Unfortunately, Nakano's chosen medium of publication by correspondence course did not make for a very widespread distribution of his work. It was later possible to send for the complete courses I single pack, but they came without the folded models and still in their separate twelve lessons. They were reproduced in a now-obsolete photo-copy medium which was unsatisfactory.

The Japanese course was issued first, followed by the English course, which was not, however, identical in content. A leaflet announcing the English course was distributed at the end of 1970 and it is said that only 150 copies were issued, although it is possible that when it was possible to obtain the complete course in a single package, more copies were issued. To anyone who bought the complete English Course Nakano also supplied his Japanese course without further payment.

Gershon Legman was ecstatic about Nakano's Courses and said so in a long article a combined issue of the Origamian, Volume 2, Issues 2, 3 and 4 for 1971. If Yoshizawa was the King of Origami, he wrote, then Nakano was the Crown Prince. Legman later told me that for this he incurred Yoshizawa's severe displeasure, expressed in person when Yoshizawa visited him in the south of France.

At one time I was under the impression that Nakano had initiated the development of complex folding in Japan, where his work seemed to be the forerunner of that of Jun Maekawa, whose work was preomoted by Kunihiko Kasahra and which corresponded with that of John Montroll and Robet Lang in the United States. However, when I visited Japan for the Second Meeting of Scientific Origami in 1974, I was able to ask Maekawa about this and he denied that his work was derived from that of Nakano. It seems, therefore that Nakano's advanced work did not gain the following or have the influence that it deserved. Had he published his work in book form instead of by a limited correspondence course, it might have been different.

Nakano visited England on at least two occasions. I recall attending a special meeting of some of the members of the British Origami Society held in his honour in the 1970s. I found him an amiable man, easy to get on with. He spoke reasonably good English. In addition to origami, he was passionately interested in bird watching.

Eric Kenneway made an acquaintance with Nakano, and it was possible that they met when Eric visited Japan in fulfilment of a prize he had won as well as the times when Nakano visited England. Eric had studied Japanese to degree level and was not only able to red Japanese, but also to speak it, although I do not know how fluent he was in conversation.

Following his advanced work, Nakano also published works of simple origami for children. These included a number of small booklets with the general title "OrigamiKyoshitu" ("Origami Classroom") to accompany "Grimmhobby" origami paper. He also wrote a more substantial book of origami for children with the title "Origamikan 1. Yasashii Origami" in 1981. Presumably further volumes in the series were envisaged, but apparently none was ever published.

Eric Kenneway assisted Nakano by translating this latter book into English into English. The English version of the book was called "Easy Origami" and it was printed and published in England in 1985 by Viking Kestrel. This book was also published in a Dutch edition in Holland with the title "Speels Origami". In 1987 a paperbacked edition in smaller format, but with the same content was published in England by Beaver Books with the title changed to "Crazy Paper".

Nakano also published three small booklets in Japanese containing respectively, Butterflies, Koala Bears and Flapping Birds. The folding in all three of them was quite simple. Eric translated these three booklets into English and they were published in 1986 with both English and Japanese text under the series title of "Challenge Origami". The publisher was Kodomoni-Yumeo-Jigyodan of Japan, but copies were sold by the British Origami Society Supplies. It is presumably these booklets to which Dorigami was referring. Each bookl;et was a collection of Koala bears, Butterflies and Flapping Birds respectively. However in no sense can it be said that Nakano limited the whole of his folding to models on a single theme.

In 1993 and 1994, Japan publications published two more small books for children by Nakano with the names "Origami Clssroom I" and "Origami Classroom II" These were books with board leaves in square format in a slip case containing also a pack of origami paper. All the models illustrated were very simple, with little or no innovation. Whether or not they were related to his earlier series of Japanese booklets "Origami Kyoshitsu" I do not know, but the fact that the books are square and of the size of common origami paper makes this likely.

I realise that this is a fuller and quite different reply from what Dorigami may have expected, but It has been an opportunity to write something about a gifted and inventive Japanese folder whose creative work was strangely unfulfilled and which came to disappointing and premature conclusion.

David Lister Grimsby, England.

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