Breathing new life into paper cranes; Orizuru Karuta cards that everyone can enjoy
Hiroshima’s famous attractions, local specialties, historical figures, and unique culture are all featured alongside humorous expressions in these fun “Orizuru Karuta cards” (paper-crane playing cards) that have been painstakingly hand-drawn. The fan community for the game has gradually grown to the point that large tournaments are being organized. We spoke to Ms. Funada Kazue from NPO Orizuru Hiroshima, the person behind the conceptualization, production, and promotion of Orizuru Karuta.
“A: Aki no Miyajima, the red torii gate”
“O: Orizuru, where Sadako’s feelings and hopes repose”
“Ya: Yassa yassa, the yassa dance festival in Mihara”
Unique and containing references familiar to everyone, Orizuru Karuta is packed with information about Hiroshima. The inspiration for making these karuta cards struck Ms. Funada when the City of Hiroshima was considering how it could utilize the numerous paper cranes that are offered at the Peace Memorial Park.
”At the time, the City of Hiroshima’s intention was to permanently preserve all paper cranes that have been offered. However, with so many cranes offered each year, it became clear that there would eventually be a lack of storage space and the maintenance cost required would be extremely high.”
Because of this, Ms. Funada submitted a proposal for converting them to recycled paper to the City of Hiroshima in April 2000 in response to its open call for proposals on how the paper cranes could be utilized.
”By processing the cranes into recycled paper, we can convey our message of peace to those picking up the paper for the very first time. It would also address the issues of storage space and maintenance cost, so I think it was an idea that would please everyone.”
In 2011, the City of Hiroshima again solicited ideas from its residents on how the paper cranes could be utilized, and it received many suggestions on processing them into recycled paper.
”That was how I started making this Orizuru Karuta. Actually, I was a Jomo Karuta champion myself.”
Born in Gunma Prefecture, Ms. Funada had always toyed with the idea of creating a karuta card game using recycled paper, a material close to the hearts of Hiroshima residents, by drawing inspiration from Jomo Karuta, a card game from her hometown with which she has been familiar since her childhood.
Jomo Karuta features expressions that allude to Gunma’s local traditions and culture, such as “Tsu: Gunma Prefecture, the shape of a crane (tsuru) taking flight,” and it is still enjoyed by both adults and children in the prefecture, mainly through activities held at community centers.
”As a native of a different prefecture, I still feel that it is presumptuous of me to remark on the atomic bombing. However, after hearing and learning about what happened, I decided to use recycled paper made from paper cranes as a means to express my wish for peace.”
Disassembling the paper cranes to make recycled paper
Orizuru Karuta is crafted from Japanese washi paper specially produced in Otake and recycled paper made from paper cranes.
The yomi-fuda (“reading cards”) contain expressions that have been composed based on ideas solicited from various people, while the heartwarming pictures on the e-fuda (“picture cards”) have mainly been drawn in collaboration with individuals working at facilities for people with disabilities. The process of producing paper from paper cranes took years of hard work alongside people at the facilities before Ms. Funada was satisfied with the results.
”Tasks such as editing and reviewing the cards took us many years to complete, as we had to travel to different regions to check each piece one by one. But thanks to the help of so many people, we are very proud of what we have achieved.”
The site of a karuta tournament
In 2013, Orizuru Karuta was a recipient of the Hiroshima Good Design Encouragement Award. These days, karuta enthusiasts can often be seen gathering at children centers at mother’s clubs, international student centers, temples, and other locations in Hiroshima Prefecture to play the game. It has become so popular that an Orizuru Karuta tournament is scheduled to be held on January 29th, 2023, at the Hiroshima Prefectural Citizen’s Culture Center in Naka-ku of Hiroshima City.
NPO Orizuru Hiroshima, where Ms. Funada serves as Representative, also produces letter paper, adorable mini-envelopes, bookmarks, and many other items inspired by various ideas that are crafted with recycled paper made from paper cranes, in addition to Orizuru Karuta. The paper cranes offered have been reborn and now bring smiles to the faces of even more people. Why don’t you enjoy them by playing a game of karuta?
NPO Orizuru Hiroshima
Address: Funada Senyohin 2F (inside FogHorn), 4-4-40 Ujina-nishi, Minami-ku, Hiroshima-shi
*Orizuru Karuta and other items can be purchased through the above website or at FogHorn, Gallery TAO, Orizuru Tower, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park Rest House, etc.
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