If you thought Origami was hard, that the advanced form called Renzuru will probably seem impossible This centuries-old Japanese art form involves folding multiple cranes from a single piece of paper, ensuring that they remain connected with each other.
Renzuru, which is roughly translated as “consecutive crane” can be traced back to the Edo period of Japan (1603-1867) and is regarded as one of the most advanced Origami techniques. In order to master the art of renzuru, one must learn to make strategic cuts to form a mosaic of semi-detached smaller squares from a large piece of traditional “washi” paper, and then fold each square into a crane, without breaking the thin strips of paper that connect them. Concealing the extra paper is also a challenge. Typical renzuru artworks consist of four paper cranes arranged in a circle and attached at the tips of their wings, but some skilled masters have developed their own renzuru styles. One of these skilled artists is 70-year-old Mizuho Tomita, who holds a record of 368 connecting cranes from a single sheet of paper.
Tomita is one of the most respected renzuru masters in the world, having folded over 500,000 paper cranes in his entire career. Although his achievements in this art are nothing-short of awe-inspiring, most interesting is how he started making renzuru cranes. His career started at the start of 1997. Ever since ancient time, Japanese have believed that the first dream a person has in a year (the hatsuyume) foretells the fortune of that coming year. In Mizuho Tomita’s hatsuyume, a crane landed from the sky and told him to “go ahead and fold origami”. The problem was he had never been any good at folding paper, and had had almost nothing to do with origami until then. Still, he told his sister-in-law about his dream, and she gave him a book on renzuru, as a present.
The ambitious artist started studying and practicing the ancient art, but it was just as hard as he expected. It took him a week to fold a single crane, but eventually got the hang of it, and started creating artworks that he was proud of. Now, Tomita creates intricate renzuru pieces, some made up of hundreds of connected paper cranes, and teaches the art to students patient enough to learn it.
Photo: Mihoko Takizawa/Asahi