The Lister List

Toshie Takahama

I should like to pay a very personal tribute to Mrs. Toshie Takahama, who died, in the fullness of time, on 7th July.

Mrs Takahama is said to have been aged 91, but I have a note that she was born in Tokyo in 1910, which would make her age more like 89. She was born into a wealthy family and enjoyed the highest possible education. On leaving university she married a businessman and bore him three sons and a daughter. Sadly, her husband died of pneumonia in 1943 at the height of the Seond World War, leaving her to bring up her children and also care for her aging parents alone. But never was any of this adversity ever reflected in Mrs. Takahama's charming and friendly nature.

It is my misforturne that I was never able to meet her. She came to England, but I was unable to go up to London to the meeting held for her. However, I managed to speak to her by telephone and I treasure the memory. She was hoping to come to England on another occasion and I fully intended to go up to meet her. But sadly, her visit had to be cancelled becuse of her ill-health and the opportunity never came again. For a time we corresponded about historical aspects of Japanese paperfolding and she clarified many points that were then obscure for me, particularly about noshi and noshi tsutsumi.She went out of her way to find experts on the history of Japanese paperfolding. In an act of extraordinary kindness she sent me a set of betrothal tsutsumi which had been bought for her daughter's betrothal. It remains a cherished item in my collection of Japanese origami.

I always admired Toshie's exquisite artistic taste, which is abundanly evident in the many books she wrote, especially the three volumes of "Creative Life with Origami". But it is also shown on a miniature scale in the beautiful little greetings cards which she sent out in abundance to her many friends. I have many of them and they would themselves make up a notable exhibition of the art of the miniature. Perhaps her greatest artistic achievement was her series of Japanese paper dolls, which which were made in one of the great Japanese paper traditions. They were not strictly origami, becuse they used multiple papers which were cut and shaped to make the magnificent robes and headdresses of the dolls. A collection of them was put together in the form of a large calendar a copy of which she sent me. That again is a treasure of great value.

Toshie had a way of folding and shaping paper that made her dolls not only spendid but also alive with movement. Toshie spoke perfect English and she spent some time in English-language broadcasting. When she came to New York at the time of the New York World Fair in 1965 in a group led by Toyoaki Kawai, she met Lillian Oppenheimer. Toshie remained dutifully silent as befitted a junior female member of the party, but she observed and understood. When she returned to Japan, she formed an origami group based on the western idea of sharing. It later became known as the Sosaku Origami Group '67. This group was one of the factors which led to the transformation of Japanese Origami from one of a formal master and pupil relationship to one where members share their Origami as equals as we do in the West.

Mrs Takahama became a frequent correspondent with folders in th West and she sent many contributions on many fascinating aspects of Japanese Origami which were printed in The Origamian. When Lillian Oppenheimer and Alice Gray paid their visit to Japan together, Toshie acted as their guide fro ten days, going to great lengths to make their visit an enjoyable one. One of her creations is known affectionately as "Toshie's Jewel". But it was she herself who was the real jewel. It is as a glittering jewel that she will remain in our hearts for ever.

David Lister Grimsby, England.

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