The Lister List

Kasahara Talk At Bristol 1999

A talk by Kunihiko Kasahara given to the BOS at Bristol in April, 1999

Kunihiko Kashara began with an account of how he came to be a keen paperfolder. He said that he was born only five months before Japan entered World War II. So there was a shortage of food everywhere in Japan when he was attending Kindergarten. (He would be aged four when the war ended.) The first thing he made was a paper cup when he was at kindergarten, when he was aged five or six. He ate a snack from it. He said that there is a lot of geometry in the cup and that it taught him many things.

The second origami work he came across was the lily: he first saw paper lilies as decorations on Buddhist altar in a house. They were always of gold and silver and that is how he folded his own lilies. At that time Japan did not have many beautiful papers, but there were always gold and silver papers at Buddhist altars and Kasahara regarded them as precious. He said that even today when you buy a packet of origami paper, there are always two sheets of gold and silver paper included, but he said that we do not use them very much today. When he was a child he used newspaper for folding, but now there are lots of beautiful papers. We also have gauze material for folding.

The third fold Kasahara learnt was a baseball glove. Baseball was introduced into Japan by the US Army after World War II. Leather gloves were too expensive for Japanese boys, so he folded a glove out of paper. He said that his father used to collect silver paper from cigarette packets and he used it to make a ball (presumably the fold known as the waterbomb in the West). He also made a GI cap.

As time went by, Kasahara came to regard origami as children's play. Then he got a dog and he had no time for origami any more. The hard times passed away and the Japanese came to have many more things. Origami came introduced more into Japanese life.

When Kasahara was aged 15, he found an origami book in a bookshop. It was by Akira Yoshizawa and although it cost only 100 Yen, it has still too expensive for him to buy. But a friend had a copy. This book was only a thin one and Kasahara finished the models in it quickly. Yoshizawa's book surprised Kasahara. He was surprised by how many things you could make with origami and wanted to know more about it.

Then he found a book by Kosho Uchiyama. (This was probably Uchiyama's Origami Zukan.) Kosho Uchiyama's book attracted Kasahara for different reasons. Uchiyama said that "the biggest joy of origami was making new things with it". Uchiyama gave explanations how to make new things with origami. There were lots of boxes in his book. Kasahara said that he found that his real teacher was Kosho Uchiyama.

Three years later Kosho Uchiyama visited Tokyo and Kasahara was able to meet him. Kasahara showed Uchiyama ten of his own works that he had based on Uchiyama's book. Uchiyama told him: "This work is brilliant - please continue with it." Because of this Kasahara's enthusiasm for origami increased. It was about forty years ago.

Kasahara pointed out that the kind of Origami he was talking about was different from traditional origami. Kasahara showed the audience a coloured sheet of traditional models, with about three hundred different folds. On the reverse, it showed a reproduction of the Chushingura Orikata. Another sheet reproduced the Senbzuru Orikata. Kasahara said that this was the kind of folding he meant by the expression "traditional origami". But modern origami was different; it was the start of a new kind of origami. One difference was that unlike the folders of traditional origami, the creators of Modern Origami gave their names to their models.

Kasahara said that the first person who started "modern" origami was Michio Uchiyama, the father of Kosho Uchiyama. The second creator of modern origami was Akira Yoshizawa, and the third, Kosho Uchiyama. Of the three, Yoshizawa had a different sense of beauty. He is now known all over the world. Kasahara said that sometimes he enjoyed making new work. At other times he enjoyed folding older pieces. Kasahara then went on to say that he would like to introduce the study of the windmill fold.. He illustrated his talk with the aid of a loose-leaf file of folds in transparent envelopes. But first, he announced: " I want to introduce Toshio Chino."

Kasahara said that there was a difference between Yoshizawa's work and that of Chino. Yoshizawa's work was very beautiful and only Yoshizawa could express things in the way he did. Toshio Chino's work was different. Anybody could enjoy his work. It was based on traditional folding, but Chino introduced a little bit of spice. Kasahara said that he would like everybody to make Chino's work . Chino's, Uchiyama's and Kasahara's own views were the same and he would like everyone to make these works, based on the traditional folds.

Kasahara then showed models based on the windmill base, including modular forms. He showed a series of Froebel's Folds of beauty, which are derived from the windmill base and said: " In Japan we call them 'The Beautiful Folding System'. We learnt them in kindergarten, but most of the patterns have been forgotten."

From his file, Kasahara showed, first, the printed sheet of Japanese traditional folds, second, a reproduction of the Chushingura Orikata, and third, a large collection of Froebel's Folds of Beauty, made from square, triangular and hexagonal papers which he had created, himself . and fourth. miscellaneous other papers.

He showed a way of folding a "windmill" from triangular, pentagonal and hexagonal paper, leading to further patterns, and showed many pages of such "crystal patterns" from paper with three, four, five and six sides. He said: "I enjoyed four days of folding these papers: I had not time for anything else, so I had to stop". Next he showed different proportions for folding the square windmill. These had the crease positions in different proportions, one quarter, one fifth and one sixth from the edge of the paper. He said "found more than one hundred different designs."

Kasahara went on to say that he had discovered and old print of origami, with the crane, Komatsu (a paper-foded man) and a paper boat (or ship) which was published 260 years ago, sixty years before the Senbazuru Orikata. The writing on the print refers to eah model. (This is the print shown on page 13 of Satoshi Takaga's book, "Paper folding from the Classics.") (Kasahara referred to "Lana de Suki", which are sculptures on sliding doors. There was in a book of sculptures of this kind.)

Among the folds shown on the print were cubes. These were modular folds, created 260 years ago! This fold is known as "Tamata Bako", which means "Jewel Box". It is made from a windmill base folded from a square divided into nine smaller squares. He said that he was very surprised when he saw this. Each face opens. In the print, however, there are no illustrations showing how to open the faces. He introduced the cube in one of his books. Mr. Masao Okamasa had sent a letter to Kasahara, explaining the Tamata bako. There is another illustration of the Tamata Bako dated 150 years later. Kasahara said that there is a famous fairy tale about this box - something like the tale of Pandora's Box. If you open it something escapes and you grow old quickly.

Kasahara concluded his talk by demonstrating a windmill fold derived from a square creased into eighths in both directions.

David Lister Grimsby, England.

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