Tokyo-based artist Naoki Onogawa creating bonsai-like sculptures engulfed by hundreds of the monochromatic paper creatures.
My Journey with Origami Cranes –
I have long found the practice of folding origami (folding paper) cranes for the sake of peace to be a peculiar custom.
I often hear people refer to origami cranes as a symbol of peace. Since the end of World War II, people from all around are said to ship paper cranes to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even now, apparently people continue to send exorbitant amounts – several tons – of cranes to both cities every year. What strikes me as odd about these paper cranes is how they function as a vessel for people’s unrequited emotions – and how their makers, almost by habit or instinct, choose to fold them over and over again. I have great reverence for the act of praying for peace. But in this dynamic, I felt that there was nothing there that connects me to the cranes – and that the cranes are, at least in my mind, not where they were supposed to be.
In my youth, origami – or the art of paper folding – was a passion of mine. Among the forms you can find in origami, the origami crane stands apart as a particularly famous, traditional form of the art. Within the cranes I see a central point of reference for myself, together with a special “something” – a special quality.
In 2011, the Tohoku region in Japan suffered the Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster, and I made my way to Rikuzen Takata, a city in Iwate Prefecture – one region hit by the disaster – in April the following year. There, I spoke with many of the locals and walked about the town. I found myself in terror of how powerless we humans are in the face of nature’s wonder; yet at the same time, I felt empowered by the power of life, vitality, that shined so brightly in the aftermath of its wrath. I am again reminded that regardless of the times, mankind comes face to face with the threat of nature – a force with little regard for race, gender, or social status. And yet, from time to time, we also live in harmony with nature and flourish with its blessings. This experience reminded me of this fact, and also made me aware: I am here, alive, in this moment.
In the midst of all of that I felt and saw, I happened to notice a bundle of one thousand paper cranes placed at the wreckage of a local school building swept away from the tsunami. I was taken aback by the sight of it.
Up until that point, I felt that war and peace were concepts to tightly linked to these cranes. But at moment, I found them in a place untouched by these notions. This is what shocked me – for some reason, I felt like it made sense for them to be there. It was like witnessing the result of a desolate ritual – where people channeled their unsettled feelings into these cranes. And here they exist – spirited with prayers that they would go back and forward to and from a world beyond here. I struggle to find the words to describe it, but I think that maybe the cranes that I fold now come from that place of solemn prayer. And with those matters in mind, I create these works with the intention of giving origami cranes a place to belong.
In reflection, I feel that something about origami cranes is sacred – that within them, they harbor something of mystery, of the mystic. And these are the truth in the concept of “beauty” that I have faith in.
I believe that each person familiar with cranes has their own history with them. How each person feels about them and holds these cranes in their mind is unique, but it is my hope that my works allow for new dialogue. Through that dialogue, it is my hope that there is something, whatever it is, that stirs the heart of the viewer.