Origami Paper Cranes


When thinking of what to do for this assessment I was stumped. I didn’t know which way I wanted to go in terms of topics and found myself procrastinating heavily through the weeks and putting it off.  It was a few weeks before I had to present this Digital Artefact to a group of people in the tutorial that I had an epiphany that guided me to the topic that I have chosen for my DA. Originally for another class, I’m creating a paper origami crane art piece. This involves making as many cranes as possible in the time frame, tying them to fishing wire then hanging them from the roof from three metal meshes.

In order to tie this subject/idea of origami paper cranes to this subject, I have chosen to do some ethnographic and specifically autoethnographic research. Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing which seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand a cultural experience. In order to “do autoethnography,” I have chosen to investigate the history behind origami and paper cranes while also drawing my experiences with making these cranes for my art project.


The word “origami” comes from the Japanese language where “Ori” means folded and “Kami” is paper. The art of paper folding infiltrated the Japanese culture more strongly than any other. However, the traditional art of paper folding didn’t just exist in Japan alone.

During the 6th CE, paper was introduced into Korea and then into Japan by Buddhist monks. The process of folding origami become an art form as well as a religious ritual for formal ceremonies. It was also practiced in the Japanese imperial court where it was considered amusing and an elegant way to pass the time.

An earlier example of paper folding called “Shide” is a method where the paper is cut into zig-zag shapes. This method of paper folding was used in Shinto purification rituals and are found tied around and in objects, shrines and sacred spaces as an indication that spirits and Gods are present.

When the art of folding paper become recreational as well as ceremonial a book was published in 1797 by Akisato Rito, which documented recreational paper folding called ‘Folding 1,000 paper cranes’. Before this book origami was taught by elders to the younger children but after this book was published the secrets of origami were recorded and allowed for many people to learn how to fold origami.

Akira Yoshizawa is also considered to be one of the instigators or modern origami. He developed a system of folding patterns which used symbols, arrows, and diagrams that were published and became widely available which contributed to its global reach and standardization. As the art of origami became widely available the methods of folding started to develop and mix together into origami that we usually see today. Many of the origami models found in Europe tended to have a grid crease, pattern with squares, rectangles, and diagonals while ceremonial folds from old Japanese methods tended to have judgment folds where the location of the creases was up to personal taste and interpretation of the individual.

855480_orig.jpgPaper cranes are usually the first thing people think of when origami is concerned. The paper cranes carry heavy symbolism and meaning in Japanese, Chinese and Korean cultures. In these cultures, cranes represent good fortune and longevity. In Japanese culture the crane is known as the “bird of happiness”, Chinese culture also believes them to be heavenly and full of wisdom. In these cultures, the wings of the crane were believed to be able to carry souls up to heaven and carry people to higher levels of spiritual enlightenment.

Mainly in Japan, the crane is known to be a mystical creature which is believed to be able to live for thousands of years. As a result, these animals are held in the highest regard and has become a symbol of hope during challenging times. Because of this, it has become popular to fold 1,000 paper cranes or “senbazuru” in Japanese. The cranes would usually be strung together on strings and given as wedding or baby shower gifts.


The story of Sadako Sasaki was the reason why folding 1,000 paper cranes became so popular. Sadako survived the Hiroshima bombing when she was only 2 years old, as she grew older her injuries grew worse and she notices her glands were becoming swollen and purple spots appearing on her legs. She was later diagnosed with leukemia – a cancer of the bone marrow. While she was deteriorating Sadako made the decision to make 1,000 paper cranes, she made the cranes as a way to let out her pain, suffering, and boredom. Sadako hid her suffering and pain through making paper origami cranes and ended up making 644 cranes out of her 1,000 goal. She ended up passing away before reaching her goal so friends, classmates, and family members came together to finish it for her and she ended up being buried with her cranes and a promise of a wish.



So far I have made around 200 paper cranes and am hoping that I will be able to create another 200 for my art piece. Folding paper cranes have become somewhat therapeutic for me and it’s something that I will continue to do in my free time. I originally used Youtube as a source to understand how to fold the cranes properly because the diagrams available were quite confusing and hard to figure out. When I used Youtube as a source I found that other people who were helping me make them also found it easier to understand which was also helpful. When the art piece is finished and marked I’m planning on keeping it and hanging it somewhere in my room somehow. I think that the story and history behind the origami art form is a beautiful one that I think will definitely stick with me beyond the university assessments I have completed about it.



Sadako, A Character Analysis

So I’m not looking at authors this week. I’m not going to mention them, or research them or understand their influences, because I’m going to focus on one character, Sadako. I’m going to mull through her character and what might make her so popular.

The ring as a franchise has been perpetuated by the character of Sadako, a vengeful spirit who uses video tapes to murder anyone who views them, unless they make someone else view it within 7 days. She is depicted as a pale child and woman almost interchangeably with long dark hair covering her face. This trope is nothing new to Japanese culture and literature, fitting neatly into the Onryo-Yurei archetype. Yurei being the broad term for Ghost in Japanese, and Onryo being the category of vengeful spirits.

As an Onryo character the audience expects certain tropes, most importantly an immense tragedy or wrongful doing that has brought them back and a person (or persons) that has caused this wrong-doing. Basic story structure for

an Onryo follows the protagonists/audiences discovery and fixing of this wrong-doing and the Onryo being satisfied and passing on from the physical world. I think almost all episodes of Supernatural follow this structure (Or just burn their bones).
Where Sadako diverges from this classic tale, is that she never seems satisfied. The audience follows her story, discovers the wrong done to her and watches the protagonist ‘fix’ it but we don’t get the resolution of her passing on, we are left confused and wondering if we missed something in her story that might be stopping her from moving on, some other unresolved conflict.
This confusion is confounded by the multiple and conflicting portrayals of Sadako presented in the novels and multiple films. Leaving the audience wondering if in fact Sadako does fit this neat trope of the Onryo, or if she is something much more terrifying and dangerous.

Sadako is commonly portrayed as psychic and uses these powers to spread herself and her vengeance through technological mediums. In the first film this is a VHS tape that curses the viewer, but in subsequent films and TV shows, restrictions seem to get lifted andshe is able to move through all screens and devices. She becomes the embodiment of the fear of technology. As her character evolves to take advantage of new technologies, she keeps the franchise relevant and popular in a modern technological society.

I believe this is of huge importance when considering her popularity in Japanese popular culture. Japan has grown into a global symbol of technological advancement along with South Korea and several other east Asian countries. Creating a mysterious and intriguing character that uses these technologies to generate fear, terror and death keeps her relevant and terrifying to older and newer audiences.
This combined with a seemingly relatable traditional character trope, I think has led to her success as the celebrity of the franchise.

Interestingly, a huge part of Sadako’s character is that she is transgender. This is explored in the novels as well as some of the subsequent films. Being unable to physically reproduce, she is forced to create the ‘Ring-Virus’ that furthers her DNA though technology. It is also suggested that she is born from some form of Oceanic demon.

Although these aspects of her character are not often represented in popular culture and overlooked by many of her representations. I wonder if her being transgender is still too taboo for Japan and perhaps even the for broader world to talk about in their understanding of this character.


Further reading on Sadako and Japanese Ghost lore




Sadako Yamamura

Having Epiphanies and coming to grips with Auto-ethnography

This past week, I found an essay online by Jessica Balanzategui, a screen studies PHD student at the University of Melbourne, titled ‘Everything in this World is Artificial: Media Contagion, Theme Parks and the Ring Franchise’. Being an exceptionally long essay she touches on many themes in relation to the Ring, but in part the essay looks at the cultural significance of ‘The Ring’ franchise as a spectacle, and the importance of the character ‘Sadako’ in perpetuating the popularity of the franchise, just as she perpetuates her ‘curse’ in the films (Blanzategui, 2014).

Reading through this essay I realised that while focusing on Hideo Nakata, the director of the first and second Ring films and his influences, I had missed the real celebrity of the ring, the character of Sadako.
So far through this process my brain has been focused on the authors of media and their influences into how they construct and shape their work, rather than the influences the content of media may have on the culture.

Coming a better understanding of the character of Sadako (Samara in the US version) and why she is so popular, would give a greater insight into Japanese popular culture than just the reasons and influences of her character.

In my glossing over of Sadako, I also didn’t look into the writer of original book, Koji Suzuki, and his influences while writing ‘Ring’.
Suzuki was writing Ring in 1989, during this time he was looking after his two daughters while his wife worked as a teacher of Japanese history. In a 2003 interview with the website ‘’ Suzuki explained the main the theme of his novel

                “And so the theme of the Ring is really about the love I have for my daughters. In my book, it’s not a heroine, but a hero: Asakawa Kazuyuki. He is a father. He has a daughter and he has a wife. And like many men, his greatest fear in life is losing his wife or daughter. 

Me too. For me the biggest fear is to lose my daughtersor wife. So in my novel,    Asakawa, the protagonist, fought for the life of his wife and daughter.”

Interestingly Suzuki’s focus when speaking about his novel is love and the importance of being a father, not necessarily the character of Sadako or her technologically driven method of killing. If it was not the authors original intent to create such a celebrity, what aspects of Sadako’s character make her so important in popular culture? What does the audience see in the character that demands such attention?

And I did it again, spent ages researching and reading about the author… Maybe I’ll look at Sadako in a separate blog.