My Recs · Travel

Adventures in origami: some places to visit in Tokyo

This week in Tokyo has been a whirlwind of discovery and delight in Japanese handicrafts, particularly paper and paper folding. There are so many places to learn more about origami and find amazing materials.

One of these places is Ochanomizu Origami Kaikan, in the heart of Tokyo, near the Kanda-Myojin Shrine.

PHOTO: Storefront of Origami Kaikan, which encompasses a gallery, teaching space, and shop.

Origami Kaikan is an organization that preserves the tradition of origami, with teaching and demonstrations, yearly contests that are open to the public, a gallery, and a shop with extensive paper, books, and supplies.

The institution has been run by the same family since the 1860s, and I was fortunate to visit on a day when the patriarch, Kazuo Kobayashi, was in the house, and he introduced himself and was eager to give a demonstration and sign two books that I bought. Kazuo was amazing and a real character, too – dropping knowledge and experiences he’d had in the United States, and joking around as he masterfully folded classic figures. He finished by giving me half a dozen of his products at the end of his demonstration.

I’m so glad I made the effort to visit Origami Kaikan, and I highly recommend to anyone interested in paper folding or Japanese handicrafts generally. It is also a very child-friendly place, and the gallery is a delight.

PHOTOS/VIDEO: Origami Kaiken gallery (2nd floor)

Another good place to visit is Tokyo Origami Museum, which is quite a small space – just one room – but is jam-packed with beautiful examples. There is also a decent supply of paper to buy, and some guides for children/novices, although most of them appear to be in Japanese. This place is in Sumida, and isn’t particularly close to a lot of tourist sites, but if you are in Asakusa, it isn’t so far to walk across the river and find the place.

There are fascinating examples everywhere in the space. One of my favorites is an entire symphony orchestra rendered in paper.

I also chanced to meet an older gentleman who didn’t introduce himself by name, but he was obviously a regular there, and he approached me with a cute set of tiny mice (rats?) to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Wish I’d got his photo, because he was also a beautiful old character.

PHOTO: my tiny gifts from a patron of Tokyo Origami Museum

These are just two places I enjoyed, but I have many more Tokyo treasures to share once I am settled back home in Korea. Looking forward to posting some more of my adventures for you soon. Take care!

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