Japanese Manners #1: The Skill of Orikata

Yumi Murata

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Learning Japanese Manners

You may have heard of Origami but have you heard of Orikata? Origami is the ornamental way of folding paper and Orikata is a practical way of paper folding, Orikata is passed down generations by word of mouth. It has a long history in Japan and is one of Japans courtesies.

There are many ways to fold paper, this depends on what will be put inside. This is used for gifts and ceremonies.

My partner, Ben and I were very lucky to attend a special session with a very skilled teacher. I will introduce it below.

Orikata lesson 1: Paper for small snacks

First I was shown how to fold paper for placing small snacks on, such as biscuits or small cakes. Be careful to fold the paper the right way, so that the triangles are all equal size (like in the picture below) . It is important to fold the right side of the paper on the top. Otherwise it can mean bad luck!

Orikata lesson 2: Making holders for chopsticks

Following on from this we moved onto making holders for chopsticks, that could be used at social gatherings. The paper used for this was really thick and had a silvery delicate feather design on it. The folding method for this one was a little harder to explain than the pervious one, I had to watch the teacher very carefully to make sure I didn’t make a mistake. If I made a mistake like folding over the left side instead of the right it could mean bad luck! I really like how these turned out, I would definitely try to make them for my friends.

Chopsticks and folding paper

Orikata lesson 3: A Envelope for small amounts of money

The last paper folding I tried was for a envelope which is used when giving small amounts of money. Folding this design was actually quite complicated. The folds at the back were meant to reach in the middle, but mine didn’t. I think lots more practice might be required. Even thought my attempt wasn’t the best, it still resulted in a cute looking envelope.

The rules of Orikata

There are five rules to Orikata:

1. Wash your hands before folding. (To purify your body and not to defile the Japanese paper.)

2. Fold it in front of you on the table. (focus your mind and feelings)

3. Do not move the paper and anything folded around while you are folding it. Do not fold the paper in air. (Keeping the money or gift facing the right way up)

4. Fold the paper on the correct side so you do not confuse the Kikkyo, Kichi (good luck) with Kyo (bad luck)

5.The appearance of paper should match the value and class of the gift.

To learn the true skill and art of Orikata I think it would take a lot of practice as there is so much to learn.

Would you like to try Orikata when you visit Japan?

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