The Lister List

Kunihiko Kasahara and Toshie Takahama

In a posting headed "Viva on Ebay" and dated 14th April, Snookyil@ reminds us that nobody has picked up the glove thrown down in his/her posting dated 10th April, asking what were the respective contributions of Kunihiko Kasahara and Toshie Takahama to "Origami for the Connoisseur" (1987), which was the English translation of the Japanese book titled "Top Origami" ((1985) (although "Top Origami" may just have been a subtitle - perhaps one of our Japanese-speaking members who knows the book could clarify this).

I suspect that the reason why nobody attempted to answer Snookyil's question is that nobody knew. Nor do I know the answer myself, but perhaps I can give a little background information. Kunihiko Kasahara was one of the first Japanese folders of the "new school" who came into prominence in the early 1960s in the wake of Yoshizawa. He was then a young man (and he still looks a young man!) He has admitted that originally he was not interested in the mathematical aspects of paperfolding, but in his recent book, "Extreme Origami" (2002) he relates how he changed his mind after discovering and analysing the work of the Bauhaus School in Dessau in Germany. (Incidentally,

a conference on the Bauhaus and paperfolding is being arranged to take place at Dessau this coming August.) The result has been very productive. Although I would not say that Kasahara was personally a great mathematical folder, he has analysed and put together the work of many such folders, bringing them out of what is for some folders, the somewhat austere realm of mathematics and into the real of recreational origami. Kasahara was one of the first Japanese folders to interest himself in Modular origami (or what the Japanese

call "Unit Origami") and he produced two or three books of his own on this topic. We have also seen how, in "Viva Origami" he introduced the world to the impressive work of Jun Maekawa. More recently his magnificent "Origami Omnibus" (1988) continues to underline the links between recreational origami and mathematics. Recently, he has published two books in German, "Origami - figurlich und geometrich" and "Origami ohne Grenzen". These have now been republished in English by Sterling Publishing Co. Inc. of New York as "Amazing Origami" (2001) and "Extreme Origami" (2002).

So we can be sure that Kunihiko Kasahara has an intense interest in the mathematics of origami. At the same time popularising approach which makes the subject attractive to the great mass of "recreational" paperfolders who have only limited mathematical training.

Toshie Takahama, on the other had, had an artistic approach to origami, which will be well appreciated by looking through her three major books (in Japanese, but with headings in English), Creative Life with Creative Origami (1974), Creative Life with Origami II (1975) and Creative Life with Creative origami III (1985). But any of Toshie's books will show her superb artistic taste. Nor did she confine her artistic paperwork to origami. She also created magnificent theatrical paper dolls in the Japanese style, which are truly breathtaking.

Toshie Takahama also had the advantage of speaking fluent English. for a time she worked as an English reader in Japanese broadcasting. (Kasahara does speak English - quite well, in fact - but I think he would admit that he dod mot approach toshjie in fluency. Toshie was among Kawai's party of Japanese folders who visited New York for the World Fair in 1965. As a junior member of the group she remained in the background, but when she returned to Japan, she formed an origami society in the western style, which became known as "Sosaku Origami Group 67". The group was fairly short-lived, but had great impact on Japanese Origami. Mitsunobu Sonobe (of module fame) and Kunihiko Kasahara were both members. The group represented a new approach to paperfolding in Japan. Toshie Takahama was the leader of the group.

Referring toToshie, herself, she conducted a wide exchange of correspondence with many western folders (even with myself - she helped me with many points of Japanese origami history). Her fluency in English made this easy for her. She contributed a series of articles to the "Origamian" in the late 1960s anbd 1970s which are still very valuable for their information on Japanese origami at he time. There can be no doubt that through her western acquaintances, Toshie kept in touch with western folding and was the recipient of examples of the advanced work of western folders in both the United States and in England.

For some twenty years there has been some confusion about "Toshie's Jewel" as it came to be known. This was published "Creative Life with Creative Origami I" and it came to be commonly supposed that she must also be the discoverer of the module from which it was made. This, in fact was the "Sonobe Module". I have recently written to Mitsunobu Sonobe about this and he has tod me that he really did discover the module which bears his name. Of course, Toshie could have discovered it independently herself, but in view of the fact that the two folders were friends and even co-authored a series of books in Japanese, the simple explanation is that Toshie used Sonobe's module. She certainly was not a prolific creator of modular or mathematical models.

With this background information, we can re-examine the respective contributions of Kasahara and Takahama to "Top Origami" (Sanrio, 1985) , amd its English translation, "Origami for the Connoisseur". (Japan Publications, 1987).

This book combines on the one hand, paperfolding with a mathematical background, including modular (or unit) origami and iso-area origami amd omn the other hand, complex representational origami from both Japan and the West. It seems reasonable to suppose that Kasahara contributed the mathematical element, including the work of advanced Japanese folders like Jun Maekawa (whom he had discovered for "Viva Origami"), Kazuo Haga, Shuzo Fujimoto, Toshikazu Kawasaki and Jun Maekawa, all of whom approached origami from strong mathematical backgrounds. We may conjecture that Toshie Takahama was reaponsible for the contributions of such western folders as David Brill and Peter Engel. It may be, too, that as the founder of Sosaku Origamj Group 67, Toshie was also able to pull together some of the other Japanese folders, now seen in the perspective of the passagre of time to be the leading folder of a new era in Japanese origami.

An interesting feature of Origami for the Connoisseur is that it has a Foreword by Lillian Openheirmer, the President of the Origami Center. It is true that Lillian had met Kasahara when she visited Japan around 1967 with Alice Gray and that he himself visited Lillian in New York in 1986, but it is not thought that they were frequent correspondents. On the other hand, Toshie was a close friend of Lillian, having been a frequent contributor to the Origamian. We may suppose that it was Toshie who arranged for Lillian to give Origami for the Connoisseur her imprimatur.

After many words, I do not htink that I have really added very much to clarify the respective contributions of Kunihiko Kasahara and Toshe Takahama. My own feeling is that by far the greatest contribution was that of Kasahara and that Toshie acted mainly as a facilitator. Or Kasahara may have insisted on adding her name as a tribute to one of the great Japanese paperfolders of her age. Sadly, Toshie died a few years ago, but Kasahara is still alive and with us. Perhaps we should just ask him!

David Lister

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