Run by Kazuo Kobayashi, who was born in Yushima, Tokyo in 1941, the International Origami Center (IOC) is a fourth generation business that was started in 1859 as Yushima no Kobayashi (Yushima's Kobayashi). Mr. Kobayashi is now the director of the IOC and is the chief director of the International Origami Society, which is certified by the Japanese Cabinet Office. According to the IOC's official English-language handout, Mr. Kobayashi "has made it his lifework to convey the 'Culture of Folding Paper' and the 'Culture of Japanese Paper' inside and outside of Japan." A noble endeavor--let's take a look inside. The lobby of the IOC serves as a gateway to the multi-storied center:
And lest you think origami is just for kids, take a look at this complicated paper sculpture based on a mythological Japanese creature:
Examples are here:
The next exhibit is one that (once again) shows the Japanese people's love of cats and dogs, as well as their knack for an entertaining use of the English language:
Why not be happy with cats and dogs? I give you what I like to think of as "Habitat for Humanity":
What is it, you ask? An entire community where teeny tiny cats and teeny tiny dogs (and people) live together in monotone equality and mutually ensured happiness. Need a closer look? Of course you do!
But my favorite exhibit was the one of cards and postcards:
|This is a rectangular folding card depicting a famous Kyoto scene of vermilion Tori (Shinto) gates.|
special decorative boards so that you can hang them for display.
|Fireflies (makes me think of Eric Carle)|
There are kits for cityscapes:
|This is a Tokyo scene with the new (1 month old) Tokyo Sky Tree tower as the focal point|
Kits for nature:
And, of course, snakes and dragons. Lots and lots of dragons:
You could buy paper in kits, paper by the piece, and a dizzying array of display boards and frames. There were origami mobiles (above), too. After much hand wringing, we made it out of the shop with one (small) dragon and one (small) boat (with a dragon on it).
Next we were off to the fourth floor, to see how the paper is created. As we stepped into the elevator, we were greeted (in English) by Mr. Kobayashi himself. He had just returned from Dubai, so I did not want to bother him by requesting a photo. (But there's one on the Taro's Origami Studio website--shout out to Park Slope, Brooklyn.) When we reached the fourth floor, Mr. Kobayashi exited to the right for his office, and we took a left into the studio where an artist was at work. We were stopped in our tracks by a fascinating scene--rows and rows of black and red striped paper, hanging in front of the windows to dry:
Many tools are used to make paper, including brushes, paints, and work tables:
The paper making looks like this (and p.s. this was our favorite part of the trip):
We watched for awhile--mesmerized and unable to drag ourselves away. Eventually, we left the artist to his work and headed back out into the grey Tokyo afternoon. Thanks, Mr. Kobayashi.