Learn Origami and Japanese

Author Anna Baffa Volpe for article 'Learn Origami and Japanese'

Anna Baffa Volpe

12 min reading time

(みな) さん、こんにちは! Welcome back!

Today we do an exercise a little different from those proposed so far.

Below we share a short video teaching the technique of making an origami (()(かみ)). The name of this ancient Japanese art is known as "Origami" in all countries and the meaning is fold paper:

  • ()り verb base from () る the verb to fold

  • (かみ) sheet, paper

I chose this video because each passage shows the sentence written in Japanese and the voice of the origami artist explaining. It is an exercise in reading, understanding and listening.

Below I transcribed each single sentences with the translation. I recommend listening to the video once or twice while looking at the sentences and then reading the kanji and new words with the various grammar rules.

花の折り紙, book to make flowers with the technique of origami

Materials needed to make an origami

Let's see what the master asks at the beginning of the video: (ひつ)(よう)(もの), the things that are needed for the realization:

  • ()(がみ) an origami sheet

  • ペン a pen

In each passage and sentence we will find new terms and grammar rules for the conjugation of verbs.

In some passages I will focus on the rule or term to be clarified. It is an opportunity to review for those who already know the terms, and an opportunity to study and research ideas for those who have not yet seen the kanji and the words listed.

Verbs in the form masu

We will find throughout the video and the explanation the verb:

  • ()ります fold

Recall that the verb in Japanese is not conjugated according to the person, so the same form applies to all people.

The few verbs used in this video at the end of the sentence are all in the masu form affirmative and in the present tense.


Well, let's try to make it right now.

In this sentence we have seen another very common and widely used form in the Japanese language: the Te form.

In particular the main verb in the て form combined with the verb ()る, which translates try to do something, try to do something.


(かい)(がら), the shell

The video is taken from a series called (なつ)()(がみ), the summer origami. In this episode the shell has been chosen as the theme and object.

We can also use the expression:

  • (かい)(がら)()(かた): how to fold a shell

  • ()(かた) has the same structure as ()(がみ), use the base in i and the noun (かた), which in this case means way

  • (かん)()()(かた) how to write a kanji, from the verb ()く in its base in i + kata


Turn the sheet over and position it so that the corners are top and bottom, left and right.

Make sure you ...

Verb 1 + ように + Verb 2

The verb in the dictionary form or base in u + ように + another verb: translates the concept of to do in order to.


Let's hurry up in order to make it in time for the bus!

Verb 1 is ()() to be in time + ように + verb 2 (いそ)hurry, in its exhortative form (いそ)ごう!

表と裏, front and back
  • (うら) means the back

  • (かえ)す is a verb which means to return or to reverse

  • (うら)(がえ)す which unites the two concepts to form the verb turn, turn, reverse

Right, left, top and bottom

  • (みぎ) right

  • (ひだり) left

  • (うえ) above, the top

  • (した) below, the bottom

The reported pronunciations of the 4 kanji are kun pronunciations, Japanese pronunciations.

Kun Readings and On Kanji Readings

The kun pronunciation of a kanji is of Japanese origin, it is the Japanese word that has been associated with that kanji.

  • (した)(かど) bottom corner

  • (うえ)(かど) top corner


Bend the bottom corner in line with the top.

In the following sentence you will notice instead that the kanji (ひだり) and (みぎ) have another pronunciation:

  • (ユウ) reading for left

  • () reading sa for the right

Here we have the reading according to the pronunciation on:

The pronunciation on is of Chinese origin, it is generally shorter than the pronunciation kun and is used when two kanji join together and form a new word.

To differentiate the two pronunciations it is possible to find the kun reading written in hiragana and the on reading in katakana; if you use the Rōmaji, the Latin characters, the pronunciation kun is written in small block and the on in Uppercase.

Japanese kanjig
海 sea; pronounce kun: umi and pronounce On: Kai


Fold the left and right corners together.

折り筋, the fold

()(すじ) is a word you will often hear in the art of origami:

  • (すじ) has several meanings, from muscle and tendon, to vein, fiber, but also line and crawl as in our case

  • ()(すじ) is therefore the fold, often also translated diagonal


Fold the left and right corners together at the center.


Fold the two middle corners together with the outer corners.

Te form

We find the て form, widely used in the Japanese language and with various meanings. You will notice that when he talks about folding he not only uses the verb ()る, but he precedes it with another verb: ()わせる in its te form:

  • ()わせる means join, join in its te form becomes ()わせて + ()ります

In this case the te form has the value of coordinate proposition, expressed by the conjunction and: join and fold, which we also render with fold in line with ...


Open the left and right side.

The center of everything is (ちゅう)(しん)

  • (まち)(ちゅう)(しん)() city center

  • (れき)()(てき)(ちゅう)(しん)() the historic center

  • ()(きゅう)(ちゅう)(しん) center of the Earth

The central adjective becomes (ちゅう)(しん)の or (ちゅう)(しん)(てき)な:

  • (ちゅう)(しん)(てき)(そん)(ざい) is a central person, that is a key person for the situation


Fold the left and right edges in line with the center crease.

  • (はし) represents the edge of the sheet
三角形, the triangle

The geometric figure of the triangle is translated (さん)(かく) or (さん)(かく)(けい), where the kanji (かた) indicates the form, the figure, and the style.


Bend the right triangle to the left.

  • (たお)す in the masu form: (たお) します, the verb used in the sentence above means to drop something, put something on its side, tilt


Fold the bottom right edge in line with the center crease.


Turn the two triangles to the right.

  • めくる which in the masu form becomes めくります has the meaning of turn, turn and also flip through a book


Fold the bottom left edge towards the center crease.


Rotate the triangle to the right.

なるようになる "that will be" / "will be"

  • noun + になるように

  • なる is the verb to become and is preceded by the particle に for example: ()() になる become an engineer The meaning is therefore to make something become ...


Bend so that the top corner is flush with the left and right corners.

Let's go back to our expression with なる and translate it literally:

  • (うえ)(かど)()(ゆう)(かど)(おな)じぐらいの(たか)さになるように()る: bend so that the top corner becomes approximately the same height as the left and right corner


Bend the lower left and right corners slightly.

ほんの少しの気持ち, it's just a thought
  • ほんの (すこ)little, just a little, slightly

  • ほんの (すこ)し + verb: ほんの(すく)()べる eat little

  • ほんの (すこ)し + の + noun ほんの少しの勇気で with a little courage

When a person thanks us for a gift, we respond using the expression in the image above: ほんの(すこ)しの ()()ち or simply ほんの()(もち): of nothing, it's just a thought.


Turn the paper over and draw a pattern with the marker.


The shell is complete.

やった! yatta!: finished, well, we did it!

You may also like 👇

5 Strategies to Learn Japanese Kanji
5 Strategies to Learn Japanese Kanji

How can you learn Japanese Kanji faster? We share 5 unique strategies to better learn Japanese Kanji.

7 Tips for Self-Taught Japanese Study
7 Tips for Self-Taught Japanese Study

Do you want to learn Japanese but don't know where to start? Here are 7 tips to start learning Japanese on your own.

Guide to Adverbs of Frequency in Japanese
Guide to Adverbs of Frequency in Japanese

Let's learn the most common adverbs of frequency in the Japanese language, how to use them, and how they work: いつも, 普通, 普段, 時々, たまに, めったに, 決して, 絶対.

Guide to Adverbs of Time in Japanese
Guide to Adverbs of Time in Japanese

Let's learn the most common adverbs of time in the Japanese language, how to use them, and how they work: 中, 先, 去, 前, 来, 再, 後.

Causative form in Japanese - させる and せる
Causative form in Japanese - させる and せる

The causative form in Japanese, conjugated using the suffix させる or せる, is used to express obligations, permissions, emotions, and much more.

Conditional Forms in Japanese (たら, なら, と, ば)
Conditional Forms in Japanese (たら, なら, と, ば)

The conditional forms in Japanese are たら, なら, と, ば. Each is used in a different context and they all have a different meaning and conjugation.