Origami: A Slice of Japan in Beirut

Published March 18th, 2019 - 03:51 GMT

Those visiting the Phoenicia Hotel’s Cascade Lounge for an afternoon tea or quick coffee will find it hard to miss the newly added, delicately folded origami art placed around the rooms.

The 2,000 pieces of beautifully patterned paper creations are the work of Takako Yamaguchi, the wife of Japanese Ambassador Matahiro Yamaguchi.

The display was initiated when Najib Salha, whose grandfather built the Phoenicia, visited the ambassador’s home and admired the origami there.

For about three months, Yamaguchi along with her team of helpers - Izumi Matsumoto, Kaori Nagai, Miyuki Wada and Sawako Ishida designed and folded the intricate artworks.


Complementary pieces, in the shape of animals, plants and geometric 3D shapes, are on show in 250 glass boxes, placed on side tables and the edge of the lounge’s ornate fountain.

“The fact that origami can be made from just a paper and can be created into various forms, from simple to complex - it inspired me to learn origami,” Yamaguchi told The Daily Star.

“In addition, it is a form of art and a way to enhance mindfulness for all ages, so I keep creating origami.”

Yamaguchi said that origami as an art traditionally involved folding paper without the use of scissors or glue, using small square-shaped paper, usually in bright colors and pretty designs.

“In Japan, children are taught how to make origami by their parents or grandparents, and sometimes they learn in kindergarten,” Yamaguchi said.

“Origami ranges widely from simple forms that are intended for children, to complex forms, which are considered an art.


“Japanese origami began sometimes after Buddhist monks carried paper to Japan during the sixth century,” she explained.

“The first Japanese origami dates from this period and was used for religious ceremonial purposes only, due to the high price of paper.

“Modern origami has attracted a worldwide following, with evermore intricate designs and new techniques,” she added.

“The new generation of origami creators have experimented with crinkling techniques and smooth-flowing designs used in creating realistic masks, animals and other traditional artistic themes.”

The art is still a very widespread practice in Japan, used in schools and even when wrapping gifts.

One of the pieces on show at the Phoenicia involves 1,000 folded origami cranes an iconic design meant to make the folder’s wish come true.

“The origami crane, ‘orizuru’ in Japanese, has become a symbol of peace because of this belief and because of a young Japanese girl named Sadako Sasaki,” Yamaguchi said. “Sadako was exposed to the radiation of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as an infant.

“She was then an atomic bomb survivor. By the time she was 12 in 1955, she was dying of leukemia.

“Her classmate told her about the legend, so she decided to fold 1,000 origami cranes so that she could live,” she added. “Sadako folded 644 cranes before she died; her classmates then continued folding cranes in honor of their friend.

“While her effort could not extend her life, her friends made a granite statue of Sadako in the Hiroshima Peace Park: a girl standing with her hands outstretched, a paper crane flying from her fingertips,” she said. “Every year the statue is adorned with thousands of wreaths of 1,000 origami cranes.”


This article has been adapted from its original source.     

Copyright © 2019, The Daily Star. All rights reserved.

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