Naoki Onogawa - "Crane Tree, Prayer"

Walking with an Origami Crane


When I was a child I became fascinated with origami and of all the traditional models, the most famous is the ‘orizuru,’ or paper crane.
The longer I spent creating them, the more I understand that orizuru served as an outlet for my wandering emotions, but as I folded them, I sometimes felt that I was simply repeating the process out of habit. There was nothing to connect me with orizuru, I could not think of any particular ‘location’ or ‘destination’ for the orizuru.
The Great East Japan Earthquake struck in 2011 and in April of the following year I travelled to Rikuzentakata town where I listened to the stories of people who had lived through it and was actually able to look around the town. I could comprehend the horror of standing helpless in the face of nature’s ferocity, and also the shining strength of life. I realized afresh that no matter what period of history we may live in, regardless of race, sex or social standing, people are perpetually confronted with the threat of natural disaster, although sometimes we can benefit from this to coexist with nature. In addition, this experience made me see clearly that we are living in the present.
While thinking all this, I noticed with a start that somebody had placed 1,000 orizuru on the wreckage of a school building that had been destroyed by the tsunami.
Somebody who felt lost had folded these orizuru, imbuing them with prayers that travel between this world and the next, in a kind of lonely ceremony. I find it difficult to put into words, but perhaps the orizuru that I am producing now stem from the same kind of solemn ‘prayer.’ Furthermore, by infusing my work with this kind of feeling, it may create a ‘place’ for the orizuru.
Looking at them afresh, I appreciate that orizuru possess a mysterious ‘something,’ and this is the ‘beauty’ I believe in.
I think that everybody possesses their own kind of orizuru as they walk through life. The way they feel about them and how they superimpose their thoughts on them may vary from person to person, but I hope they will give rise to ‘something’ that will move their hearts through a dialogue with the work.

Onogawa Naoki




“Paper folding is said to date back to the Heian period (794–1185), and the Japanese word for it, ‘Origami’ has become recognized throughout the world.
In particular, the paper crane is considered a most auspicious model and serves as a prayer for recovery from illness, a petition to the gods and a symbol of peace.
The voice of the crane carries a long way and is said to reach all the way to heaven.
Onogawa Naoki employs paper squares that are a mere 13 millimeters in size, and using only his fingers, folds thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands paper cranes. But who is he thinking of? What does he pray for?
This taciturn young artist’s small, bonsai-like, crane trees no doubt represent a message for peace.”