The Lister List

Origami Books by Tokinobu and Hideaki Mihara

It was mentioned the two small volumes published by the Oriental Culture Book Club of San Francisco in the mid-1950s as being the first American books with "Origami" in the titles.

The actual titles are, indeed "Origami", each with a sub-title "Japanese Art of Paperfolding". I, too, thought at one time that they might be the first books published in America using the word "Origami", but now I'm not so sure.

So much hs been written about the origin of the Origami Center in New York in 1958 and the way in which it started the modern origami movement among western nations that it is easy to forget that simultaneously, the United States was being invaded by origami coming in books directly from Japan. It is interesteing to speculate how origami would have developed had it not been for Lillian Oppenheimer! For some years I have been trying to pinpoint the date this invasion started.

The two books by the Miharas are simple little books in English, paperbacks measuring seven inches by ten inches with 26 and 22 pages respectively. Both books are illustrated by actual folded models. Unfortunately, both books are undated. The authors are given as Tokinobu and Hideako Mihara, who lived in Sutter Steet in San Franciso, where they owned a stationery shop, presumably with Japanese emphasis not far from what was to become the Japanese Center of San Francisco. By the time of the first Pacific Coast Origami Conference held in San Francisco in 1967 (which I ws very fortunate enough to attend), the shop had moved to a new building on Sutter Street at the corner of buildings of the Japanese Center directly of opposite the Best Western Hotel, where I stayed during the Conference. I visited the shop several times and introduced myself to Mr. Mihara (son of Tokinobu and Hideko) and his wife. They still sold origami books and paper. By this time, Tokinobu and Hideko had died and the shop belonged to their son. The son's daughters were Vicky and Linda. Vicky is now married and known as Vicky Mihara Avery. She was one of the organisers of PCOC 1. I got to know both Vicky and Linda well during the Conference. and have continued to correspond occasionally with Linda.

The other origami books originating from Japan and distributed in Western countries in the 1950s were three booklets by Florence Sakade and published by Charles E. Tuttle Co. They are the same size as the Mihara booklets but without the glued in models. The titles of all three booklets are "Origami Japanese Paper-Folding". They remained in print until recently (maybe still), but now a combined volume has been published, also by Tuttle. The date of the first impression of volume 1 is given as 1958.

The third series of books with the title "Origami - Japanese paper folding" was a series of four booklets (also of the same size) distributed by Japan Publications Trading Company Ltd., the rivals of Tuttles for distributing Japanese books in western countries. The nominal publisher of the first two of these booklets was the Toto Shuppan Co. Ltd. The publisher of the second two was Asahi Origami Club. The first booklet in the series was "Penguin Book", which was copyright 1957. This ws a very colourful series of books, all of which have actual folded models attached to the pages.

The President of the Toto Origami Club is stated to be Isao Honda and he is also the Editor of the two Asahi books. There seems to be little doubt that he was the author of all four books and that the Toto Club and Asahi Club were merely fictitious. All of the models are ones which later appear in books under Honda's own name, including "The World of Origami" first published in 1965.

At one time I thought that the Mihara books might antedate the Sakade and Honda books. Unfortunately, in the absence of a publication date, I could not establish this. I corresponded with Vicky Mihara to see if anyone could remember anything or if there were any records which would throw light on the matter. Unfortunately none could be found. The most Vicky could tell me was that the books originated from Japan.

More recently, I have tried to obtain information form libraries in California. I thought, for instance, that there might be an accession date in some catalogue.

Very kindly Pat Slider, who lives in California was able to initiate a search in the Californian libraries through a helpful librarian in Fresno. The report was that "essentially no copies of the Miharas' book were found older than 1961". Three or four copies were found in the system. Pat told me that In addition, the librarian went that extra mile and compiled a; bibliography of all the early origami titles he came across, but without finding any extra information.

This was disappointing news, but it indicates that the first book to be distributed in the United States with the word origami in the title was be Honda's Origami - Penguin Book. it is just possible that the library copies are of a second printing, but since it applies to three or four copies of the booklet, it seems unlikely that anything further will come to light.

I still hope that positive evidence may someday come to light. Out of loyalty to the Mihara family, I should dearly like to show that their books were the first. As always, If anyone can contribute anything, I shall be pleased to her from them.

David Lister

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Rabbit by Stephen O'Hanlon