Origami, the ancient art of paper folding, is simplistic because it requires only a single sheet of paper, and ornate because the complex figures one can produce through the simple action of folding.
The Japanese word “ori”, meaning to fold, is joined with “kami”, paper to produce the word we know as Origami. Two small, simple words joined together to make a complex, compound word. The word itself embodies the art. Two simple tools (paper and human hands) together produce complex and elaborate creations.
Paper was invented in China around 105 AD, but before long, it found its way to Japan. However, because of the hand-made nature of paper, it could not be mass-produced. This meant that only the exceptionally rich had access to it. Thus, paper folding was originally reserved only for the very wealthy. In the beginning, it was used both as entertainment in the Imperial Court and for religious ceremonies only.
When paper was more cheaply and easily produced, and became more readily available, Origami quickly became a favorite pastime and folk art, for the masses, in Japan, as it remains today.
While today, we generally regard the art of paper folding as originating in Japan. However, there is evidence of other styles of paper folding, from the twelfth century, in the Moorish culture Europe, as well. The Moors brought their mathematical based paper folding technique to Spain, where it was developed into the artistry knows as papiroflexia or pajarita.
It is easy to see how this ancient art, with its uncomplicated tools, yet intricate design, could quickly spread across borders and oceans. Likely, it is practiced as art or recreation in nearly every culture and country of the world in our modern era, due to the fact that the supplies needed are relatively easy and inexpensive to get your hands on. I once dated a man who used to make tiny, silver cranes out of gum wrappers and give them to kids on busses, boat and airplanes as we traveled around Latin America.
True aficionados of the art, like Huatulco’s Erastus Rojas (Chef at Japanese restaurant Konnichiwa), would never consider a gum wrapper quality enough to create his truly elegant works of art.
After more than 20 years of practicing Origami, he has attained a level most will never attain. One look at the detailed figures he has created that decorate Konnichiwa and you can see why. Chef Rojas orders special paper and sometimes waits weeks to receive it before beginning one of his animal designs.
Underwater seascapes, tropical bird paradise or African Safari, one can see it all represented in pure paper. Rojas also has an affinity for dragons. One of his figures, a three headed dragon, took him 7 hours to complete and required more than 600 folds. All on a single sheet of paper!
You may think that Chef Rojas learned his craft in Japan, but actually, he learned it right here in Mexico while living in Mexico City. He has become so proficient at paper folding, he was recently commissioned to do two murals that were shipped to Spain.
Upon entering his restaurant, the concentration, dedication and passion he puts into his work is immediately evident. Don’t miss the opportunity to stop by Konnichiwa while you are in Huatulco to catch a glimpse of this ancient Japanese art, alive and well, on the coast of Oaxaca!