Paper making techniques came to Japan from China, after some time washi (わし) was developed. Washi is a type of paper that is best suited to origami as it is soft, resilient and does not tear easily when handled. This high quality paper is made from the bark fibers of the Gampi (がんぴ) tree; bamboo, hemp, rice or wheat is also used. Washi is not only used as paper but for clothing, furniture and weaponry.
Most folding techniques use a single sheet of square paper but others use a few sheets or rectangular sheets. The reverse side of origami paper is often different to the front for interesting folding techniques. Recently origami has declined in popularity; mostly it’s used for noshi (のし) – a decoration of red and white paper attached to gifts. Folding paper was not just a way to pass time or develop skills, it also had a practical use such as paper boxes for holding herbs or spices and used to carry food.
Origami is made up from two words: oru (おる) – to fold and kami (かみ) paper.
Legend says that if someone folds a thousand crane their greatest wish will come true. Because of this the folded crane, orizuru (おりずる), has become a symbol of peace. It is also a popular design for cotton material used for yukata (ゆかた), a light weight summer garment.