Beyond Curiosity – Just Experiences!

Kawashima sanOrigami – everything has begun with one TV program

Origami instructor Misao Kawashima

I have lived in Kunitachi for nearly 50 years. I first lived in Aoyagi, where the Fujimidai housing complex No. 1 was developed in 1965 and our family was one of the first residents of the complex. At that time Kunitachi was growing rapidly and had just turned into a city from a town. It was time of baby-boomers and my daughter was one of them. When she was four years old, I decided to do something useful for the children nearby.

One day, when I was watching TV, someone was demonstrating origami, which was amazing. It rang a bell. I made a call to the TV station instantly. At that time TV people were really easygoing (LOL). They gave me the contact address of the origami instructor at once. So I called the instructor and asked him to come and teach us origami in Kunitachi. His answer was “yes, why not?”

And we held an origami class in a meeting room on the second floor of the farmers’ cooperative building. About 60 people, consisting of parents and children, turned up. After the success of the class, an origami club was formed and it continued for a while. But the club was only for adults, which was not my real intension. I wanted to do that for children. Gradually the instructor became too busy to come all the way to Kunitachi, and so were his disciples. Then I came to a conclusion; I should do it myself. I learned origami with him seriously for a half year. And I finally started a Kids Origami Club in 1968.

The Shipwreck! – at the city festival in 1990

It’s not only origami that I taught at my origami class. I showed children how to put their shoes neatly, to greet people politely, and to get along with friends. When I spotted bullying, I scolded them, sometimes spanking them if necessary (LOL). I treated everyone in one room equally, whether their parents were shopkeepers or office workers, and whether they were autistic or not. The class fee was just 100 yen. I told kids to pay the fee with their own allowance. Some kids came to the class, with their hands full of small changes, such as 10 yen coppers and 1 yen aluminums. They gathered coins from their precious piggy banks. Their faces were full of joy and I was also happy to teach them. But the number of children became less and less and I stopped teaching in 1995. It lasted for 27 years. The first children I taught are now in their forties. Time flies!

I had a variety of experiences with origami during those years. I gave a number of origami workshops and exhibitions in the United States, Greece and the Philippines. They were all amazed to see origami, because no other country has such a tradition of folding paper in this creative manner. I folded origami just in front of them. A piece of paper was gradually transformed into a beautiful 3D object. Origami can give a great surprise and impression to anyone in the world. It’s not limited only to children.

Another memorable event for me is the 20th city festival in 1990. I was a managing director of the 19th festival the year before, but it was cancelled as Emperor Showa had passed away. I managed the festival again in 1990, so I made a great effort to make it more interesting. Typically on such an occasion some city councilors would walk at the head of the parade. But that was not the case in 1990. It was me, children in kimonos and international students at Hitotsubashi University who walked ahead of all groups. So international and different, isn’t it?

At this festival, some 200 people folded one huge piece of paper, 30 meter long and 15 meter wide, transforming it into a traditional Japanese boat on the Daigaku–dori Avenue (University Street), which was closed to all vehicles. But unfortunately the paper boat collapsed due to the weight of the paper. The local newspaper reported it as ‘A Shipwreck!’(LOL).

Hooked on Kabuki calligraphy – Never-ending curiosity

川島先生の作品

I am still working on origami events locally, at after-school for a primary school, nurseries, welfare institutions, and community events. I started THE PAPER CRAFT EXHIBITION in 1994, which celebrates the 19th anniversary this year.

My activity is not limited to origami; I’ve been leading a girl scout since 1978. I have been involved in the consumer movement since I first moved to Kunitachi. That is, I’ve been doing it for quite a long time. The exchange program of schoolchildren between Kunitachi and Akita has been running for 27 years now. I took a national certificate for care workers while I looked after my mother. I recently started to help farmers in Takamori-machi in Nagano prefecture. Well, it’s my policy to experience anything that I have interest in. You never know until you do it by yourself. It is only after you do it yourself that you can tell people what it is like.

I have also promoted planting daffodils along the banks of Yagawa Avenue. Imagine flowers such as daffodils, rape blossoms, and finally cherry blossoms blooming one after another! Don’t you think it is awesome? I strongly insist on preserving the nature in Kunitachi, such as cherry blossom colonnade along the Daigaku-dori Avenue and the pastoral landscape of Yaho. To keep our nature, we need to educate the next generations. I have sown the seeds. I hope younger generations keep this tradition and make it last longer.

Of course I still keep going. I have begun learning another new thing! It’s Kabuki calligraphy. Naturally, I am thinking about the collaboration of Kabuki calligraphy and origami!