The Lister List

Kayaragua Folding

Louise Yale asks: "What is kayaragua folding".

"Kayaragusa" is the name the Japanese use for what we usually call "Kan no mado" in the West. Both names refer to the manuscript enclylopaedia which is owned by the Asahi Newspaper of Osaka, which contains two volues of paperfolding, a mixture of both ceremonial and recreational folding.

I have dealt with the Kayaragua at great length previously in Origami-L, so I will confine myself to one or two particular points.

Kayaragusa is the name of the encyclopaedia and it is not usual to use the term "kayaragua folding", although that expression might, I suppose, be used to refer to the style of folding illustrated in the encyclopaedia.

The encyclopaeda, of 233 slender volumes which resemble western exercise books, appears to date from 1845, but in view of the fact that it is handwritten (and therefore unique), it must have taken several years to compile. It appers to be a personal collection of interesting information by a man called Katsuyuki Adahi, but he may merely have been the scribe. The encyclopaedia is in several sections, only one of which is called "Kayaragusa". Accordingly it does not seem to be appropriate that the whole encyclopaedia should be called by this name. However, that's what the Japanese call it and who are we in the West to take issue with them?.

The name "Kan no mado" comes fro a misreading of the Japanese characters written at the end of the hand-drawn copy of the two paperfolding voumes which were made for Professor Frederick Starr of Chicago University around 1920 and which were deposited after his death with his papers in the Library of Congress. In 1960, at a time when the original encyclopaedia was irretrievaably in storeage during rebuilding of the newspaper building, Julia and Martin Brossman initiated a search for the Starr copy. The Starr copy was discovered and they published it in a not entirely satisfactory edition in 1961 with the title "A Japanese Paper-folding Classic (Excerpt from the "lost" Kan no mado)". The facsimele reproduction of each page is perfectly accurate, but each page has been marred by red reference numbers scattered ver it. TheBrossmans were not the first to use term "Kan no mado". It had been used by Gershon Legman in his "Bibliography of Paperfolding" (1952) and taken from there by Robert Harbin in his "Paper Magic" (1956). So the word gained common currency in the West. When the Japanese original was discovered the misreading was noticed and the Japanese insisted that the name should be "Kayaragua".

Myself (being a pedant), I refer to the encyclopaedia as "Kayaragusa (or Kan no mado)", but I amit that it is a bit of a mouthful.

The misread characer appears at the end of the second volume of paperfolding. I cannot help but think that a closer examintion of the complete original encyclopedia would throw more light on the correct name of the encyclopaedia as a whole (if, indeed it has one). For the time being however, we shall have to await the Japanese.

I have had the very great privilege of inspecting the two papefolding volumes of the original encyclopaedia myself in Osaka on two separate occasions. I tried to convince the newspaper that they shoul publish a facsimile reproduction or the origainaltwo paperfolding volumes but sadly, my pleading has so far fallen on deaf ears.

Where the folded models included in the Kayaragua (or kan no mado) derive from is another intersting question which I will not go into here.

David Lister.

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