Early Childhood Education from the Meiji Era

Okumura’s Origami Instruction Book






The small house, the crane, the tulip, the blow-up paper balloon, and the floating paper boat… Origami is perhaps the first handicraft that we get to know in early childhood. Paper folding is beneficial for children to develop finger movement, it can also spark their imaginations regarding different shapes. Among all the advantages of origami, I believe the most important aspect is to let children read and interpret the instructions, so as to follow the steps to recreate the paper art. Failed attempts are inevitable during the children’s trials, therefore, they also need to learn to overcome these frustrations. Along with the successful final work of origami is the bitterness and joy that comes from repeated attempts; these feelings would be slowly imprinted in their little young mind.

The first kindergarten in Japan was founded during the Meiji Era. Back in the days, origami is one of the activities for developing children’s motor skills and mind. Origami instruction book was naturally an indispensable kindergarten teaching material. I came across this origami instruction book in an antique shop. The year of publication is unknown. I am even not sure if the origami introduced in this book are all from Okumura or a collaborative collection from both herself and her students.


As a book of a long history, its paper is already so crisp that can be easily torn. The colors of the illustration have faded, they are nevertheless marvelous. The most interesting thing about Okumura’s instruction books is how she avoided the minute details and included only the crucial notes. Things as simple as the angle of a fold can have a great effect on the outcome; a carrot can become a radish, a fox can look like a dog because of the slight difference in folding angle.

Origami is all about geometry. Human imagination is so magical that we can see all the fascinating objects and animals from mere geometry.