It is very likely you have heard of the Japanese legend of the thousand paper cranes (senbazuru). It is believed that a person who makes a thousand origami cranes will have one wish granted by the gods. I remember first learning about this when my third grade teacher Ms. Bennet read to the class Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr. It is a very moving story, all the more so because it was true (for the most part). Sadako was directly exposed to nuclear radiation during the bombing of Hiroshima and developed leukemia as a result. Determined to fight it, she set to working creating the thousand paper cranes. According to the story by Coerr, Sadako folded 644 cranes before passing. However, according to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, she folded more than a thousand, even surpassing 1300 cranes before being taken by the illness.
[To learn more and get your history/culture lesson for the day, visit the links at the bottom of this post.]
So let us begin to construct a wish today by folding a paper crane. (I apologize for the cruddy photo quality).
1) Get a square piece of paper.
If you don’t have a piece of paper that is conveniently already square, you can fold and cut one out of any rectangular sheet of paper. Take one corner of the paper and fold it diagonally downward, bringing the edge (on top) evenly against the opposite edge (on the bottom).
Cut or tear off the excess paper below.
2) Fold the paper in half diagonally to create two diagonal fold lines that intersect at the middle.
3) Keep the paper folded in half. It is now a triangle. Fold this triangle in half, bringing one far corner to the other far corner.
4) Now, what I call a “spread open” fold. (This might be a little tricky). Open half of the triangle.
Hold down the flat half of the triangle and press down on the tip of the erect triangle half (giggity giggity?). Bring this corner down to the corner below. When you do this, it should create a diamond shape. Flatten out this diamond.
Do the same thing to the other side.
5) With the open side facing you, fold the right side in half so that the lower right edge lines up with the middle fold line.
Do the same thing to the left side. And repeat on the flip side.
6) Fold the top corner down along the edges created by your previous folds.
Repeat on the other side.
7) Unfold the two “wings” so that the paper looks like a diamond again.
8) Take the bottom corner (only the top layer) and lift up. It now looks like a mouth (of sorts).
This may take some coordination. Using the fold that you created by folding the top corner down, flatten the “mouth” upwards. The “wings” on the left and right will fold inward. Use the folding lines as your guides. It should now look like a vertically long diamond.
Repeat for the other side.
9) Fold the bottom right side inward so that the edge is against the middle line.
And then what do we do? Yep, that’s right! Do the same thing to the left side.
And… You got it- the other side now!
10) Almost finished. Another warning, this may be tricky. If you look at what you have now, it looks like you now have two “legs” on your paper. Open the right leg.
There should be a fold on the now flattened inside portion of the right “leg” from a previous step. Place your finger on this fold and tuck your thumb behind this “leg.” Your thumb should be nestled between the two legs (giggity giggity number 2?). Now fold this right “leg” up.
Squeeze it/secure it in place. It’s comin’ together. This is now your tail or head. Do the same with the other “leg.” Your “legs” may get crumpled a bit in the process, especially with thicker paper.
11) Fold down the wings.
Pull up the wings, lightly pressing the outer edges up and inward, pinching the underside of the middle fold. The middle fold down the center of the wing should go downward.
12) Finishing touch: the choosing of the head. I generally go with the more crumpled looking tip to be the head and leave the neater tip to the be pristine little tail. Fold the tip down into the “neck” and then pull it back out.
Voila! A paper crane! Now, only 999 more to go and you’re well on your way to that glorious wish.
If you want to learn more about the 1000 cranes tradition and the organizations it has inspired, follow these links:
- – A unity mission by the Takeda Oncology Company. Make a wish with a digital paper crane.
- One Thousand Cranes for Japan – Beautiful crane designs. Donate to fund artists’ work.
- Sadako Sasaki – Wikipedia page. Several good links and resources to look into at the bottom and throughout the article.
- Topeka Teen, Friends Seek to Help Newtown, Conn. – An eighth grader folded 1000 paper cranes in honor of the victims and families of the tragedy in Newtown.
Thoughts? Suggestions? What are you passionate about? Please share your thoughts in the comments section!