Master of All 49 Types of Traditional "Renzuru"72-Year-Old Man in Shiga Prefecture
An elderly man living in Moriyama City, Shiga Prefecture, has been working on the Origami technique "Renzuru," or consecutive cranes, where from 2 to 97 cranes are folded from a single piece of "Washi," or traditional Japanese paper. He taught himself all 49 types of Renzuru folding methods, which have been handed down from the Edo Period, and has also created his own original pieces. According to a Renzuru preservation society, it is rare for one to learn how to fold Renzuru on their own. On November 25, he debuted approximately 10 Renzuru artworks, including his original pieces, at a citizens' activity event titled "Moriyama Shimin Katsudo Yatai Mura" held at the Moriyama civic exchange center in Moriyama 2-chome.
The man is Mr. Shigemori, a 72-year-old resident of Moriyama City, Shiga Prefecture. Seven years ago, when he retired from a major electrical equipment manufacturer in Kyoto City and considered making something by hand, one of his friends gave him a book introducing how to fold Renzuru. He had repeated difficulties, for example, it took him half a day to complete one artwork. However, he became able to make all types of Renzuru after approximately three years.
Mr. Shigemori said, "As a piece of paper is folded over and over, a misalignment of one to two millimeters could expand into one of several centimeters and lead to failure. I have felt irritated and thrown failures into the trash many times, but successful completion gives me an indescribable sense of achievement and fulfillment."
Renzuru originated with the chief priest of the present Choenji Temple in Kuwana City, Mie Prefecture. Renzuru artworks consist of forms like "Karyubin," or four cranes stacked one upon the other's backs, which is considered to be the most difficult folding method, "Horai," or a crane sitting on four other cranes' wings, which is considered to be representative of Mt. Horai in the Lake Biwa area, and others. "Kyoka," or comic Tanka poems, about each Renzuru, have been also passed down together with the techniques.
A group for conserving Renzuru called "Kuwana no Senbazuru wo Hiromeru-kai" based in Kuwana City was amazed, saying, "More than 100 people across the country can make all types of Renzuru, but most of them learned from masters and it takes at least two years to fully learn the art of Renzuru."
Mr. Shigemori has worked on his own original folding method with the Renzuru folding techniques and created approximately 10 artworks, including one where a crane and a tortoise sit face to face, which was made as a good luck charm, and one where 16 cranes form a diamond shape.
He explained his dream. "I want to keep making artwork which leads people to feel doubt and question, 'Is it really made from one piece of paper?' Also, many Kyoka cannot be translated into modern language, so I would like to make an easy-to-understand book explaining on Renzuru folding methods and Kyoka."(Translated by Mie Hiuzon, Psyche et l’Amour, Inc.)