Turtles, boats, and Santa's, introducing the art of Origami

Origami boat


Co-founder, Erika Takeuchi, recalls how folding origami Santa's became a tradition at her grandma's house when she was visiting. "We would fold Santa's until our fingers or eyes gave in, holiday movies playing in the background. We would fold a thousand Santa's and my grandma would pass them out at a volunteer Christmas event where my Grandpa was Santa," explains Erika. She also recalls trying to perfect her creases with her mom, folding boats, cups she’d try to drink water out of, balloons, and the fold of all folds, the crane. 

From monks to butterflies

Origami comes from the words oru (to fold) and kami (paper). After paper was invented in China, the special printed paper was carried to Japan by Buddhist monks. In the 6th century, monks would fold this detailed paper only for ceremonial or religious purposes.

As paper became more widely available, people began to pick up this art form everywhere in Japan. People would make origami figures as gifts, create envelopes, or fold the paper to wrap a gift. There are many symbols attached to origami and the shapes made. Paper butterflies are common to find at a Japanese wedding, tsutsumi, folded gift wrappers, symbolize sincerity and purity, and tsuki, paper that goes with a gift, symbolizes authenticity.

wall of origami ranes

Countless styles

Akira Yoshizawa is known as the “grandmaster of origami,” and is said to have created over 50,000 different figures in his lifetime. That’s a lot of origami! Here are three key methods we wanted to share with you:

Fukugou Origami (multiple origami)

This technique uses multiple pieces of paper that are folded, and then combined to make one final, extravagant shape. Confession: we tried this with a 6-paper star, and gave up! People sometimes use different colored paper for the parts to add some life and color…we’re going to give it another go!

Kirikomi Origami (using a bit of cutting)

Traditional origami does not use scissors, tape, or glue, only the hands to fold and create. In this technique, they break this rule and use scissors, which opens up another world of possibilities on what you can create. For example, adding a frayed end to flower petals or creating outward turned feet on a turtle.

Shikake Origami (including amusement and movement)

This method is by far our favorite! When one is done folding with this technique, the shape actually moves! HOW COOL! A small movement such as an animal’s mouth opening, or bird’s wings moving are examples of this method.

Origami cranes

The ultimate wish     

Creating a paper crane is by far the most popular origami shape. The paper crane is a symbol for peace, love, hope, and healing. An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by the gods.


To celebrate this ancient art form that’s still very much popular in Kyoto, Japan, we’ve included a set of origami paper as well as instructions on how to try your hand at a paper crane inside our Fall Box: Journey to Kyoto, Japan. This is a great activity for a date night and is also a perfect for a family night activity. Our Tea Expert, Atsuko shared that every child grows up learning how to do Origami in Japan, and for kiddos, this is great for eye-hand coordination and learning about shapes!

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