Origami—we’ve all seen it and we all appreciate it. It is the simple art of paper folding and it originates from the great Japan. The objective of origami is to make a flat square sheet of paper into a finished sculpture. The Japanese word ‘origami’ is made up of two smaller Japanese words – ‘ori’ from the verb ‘oru’ which means to fold, and ‘kami’ meaning paper.

Origami is an intricate art which is extremely impressive. Nowadays origami is quite a cool and hip thing to do in the West too—and seeing the range of origami designs available, you can definitely see why. This post will tell you everything you need to know about origami, from where to buy the paper and where to see this delicate art in action in Tokyo.

A brief history

  • In Japan, the earliest reference to a paper model was in a poem by Inhara Saikaku in 1680.
  • It has been said that a thousand cranes makes a wish come true.
  • It was after World War II that origami cranes symbolized peace.

Origami Kaikan


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This place is an exhibition center and workshop which is dedicated to origami. Here you can take a short 15-minute class on the art that will set you back a mere 500 yen. Everyone is welcome and there is no need to book so you can just drop in. With the lesson being short, there’s no need to worry about the language barrier. Perfect for families with creative children.

There is also another type of class that you can attend which is longer (but is in Japanese). This is a bit pricier at 1,000-2,500 yen for one to two hours (depending on the project).

There’s also a shop and gallery on the first floor and another gallery on the second. I would recommend going to the fourth floor as you can watch the process of paper-making, dyeing and decorating origami paper.

tokyo ryokan decor
Photo by Victor Gonzalez

Nippon Origami Museum


There’s more to Narita International Airport than just the duty-free shops. No more dread going to the airport hours and hours before your departure time—you’ve got the Nippon Origami museum to go to. The museum displays 400 pieces of origami from the traditional crane to a tiny crane that needs to be looked at under a microscope. There is a lovely flower display and an impressive origami amusement park too. Plus, there are origami videos, paper sets with instructions and books, so if you couldn’t find anything in central Tokyo for yourself or for your family and friends as a souvenir, here’s the place for you.

The Nippon Origami Museum at this location is a branch of the main Nippon Origami Museum at Kaga city in the Ishikawa Prefecture. This has over 100,000 pieces of origami, so is a must for any dedicated origami fan. The branch at the airport is free to enter however, the one in Ishikawa will cost you 500 yen.

Narita International Airport can be a good while away on public transport, so plan your departure carefully. If you need help getting to the airport, see our trusty article.

Where to buy origami paper


Simple—good old trusty Daiso. The perfect cheap option for all you budget travelers with an origami pack of paper costing 100 yen. It’s also ideal for a souvenir for family and friends back home. For first time Tokyo travelers, hit the Daiso on Takeshita street for Harajuku mayhem and shopping madness. It’s three floors here so perfect for any other souvenirs you might want to buy. With floor guides in English, it’s easy to get around the shop floor. (Not headed to Harajuku? Try Seria—another 100-yen shop chain found all around Tokyo)

Read here if you need any inspiration for other types of souvenirs.

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A man folding color paper
Photo by iStock.com/GEOLEE

Origami, along with kabuki and sumo is just one of those things I feel need to be explored in Tokyo. The great detail, the how-did-they-fold-that-like-that?! and the general wow factor just adds to all the fun of discovering Japanese culture. Enjoy, practice, and take that sweet little tradition home with you.

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