This past Tuesday, I stopped in to talk with a tenant in one of my buildings about a problem she was having with an intermittent ceiling leak. As I was chatting away with her, I noticed she had several paper cranes on her desk. I asked if she had lived or been stationed in Japan. She was and we talked a bit about our respective experiences on the island nation. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: my experience with origami.
How I first came across this moment? My first experience with origami was in elementary school when I read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. That was when I first learned about the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. When I made the move to Tokyo in 2007, I was introduced to origami in live person. One of my Japanese co-workers had a display of paper cranes at her desk and I was intrigued. I asked her if she could teach me how to make them and she did. That proved to be a boon to my experience with origami.
What it meant to me then? Back in 2007, me practicing and perfecting the art of origami was my way of fitting in with the Japanese local culture, which mattered a lot to me. I had a running agreement with my co-worker that anytime either of us got a call from an officer’s wife that we couldn’t resolve at our level, we had to make a paper crane for the other person. Let’s just say that she got a lot more than the 3 paper cranes I got. One of the more underrated moments of my Japan residency was leaving a paper crane at the Children’s Peace Monument during my lone visit to Hiroshima in 2009.
What it means to me now? I haven’t made a paper crane or any kind of origami since 2010. I left Japan to return to the United States before the arts and crafts center at Yokota Air Base started offering advanced origami classes. I really wanted to learn how to make a stellated icosahedron as I was very jealous of the ones the Japanese-Portuguese woman I dated had all over her apartment. Tuesday’s reintroduction to origami has me thinking back to how it felt when I used to make paper cranes at my desk in the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron Customer Service Office. While I don’t have to use it as my way in regarding Japanese culture, I suppose it would make for a fantastic icebreaker or “I can do this” moment in conversation.