The word Origami refers both to the Japanese art of paper folding and to the papers normally used to that purpose. It comes from the Japanese verb oru, to fold, and the noun kami, paper (please note that in Japanese language, when the second part of a combined word starts with “k” the sound changes to “g”).
Folding paper as an art was developed in Japan almost contemporarily to the arrival of paper from China. Origami was practiced in temples and monasteries, where most of the paper was used anyway. The folds were made with ritual purposes and used on special events. The ancient Japanese masters of Origami took time to be prepared before starting to fold the paper, washing the hands thoroughly and using plenty of time to look at the papers diagrams and imagining the different folding lines. As other activities that were transformed into an art in ancient Japan (e.g. Ikebana and the tea ceremony), origami involved some type of meditation.
Origami as an art has extended all over the world, probably both for its beauty and simplicity. The only constraint for practicing origami is having a piece of paper, making it one of the most open arts. Almost any paper can be used, but usually origami paper is thin, strong, and holds a pleat very well. Although the most usual size is 15 cm by 15 cm, there are many different sizes, being the 7.5 cm squares ones also very popular.
People practicing origami form a diverse group ranging from artists to scientists and therapists. It is also used in schools to both encourage the students’ artistic expression and to help their study. But probably the biggest group is made of those that fold paper simply because it is fun.
To practice origami it is very important to choose the right material. The paper has to meet some conditions as being exactly square, holding well the fold, not tearing too soon, holding its colour and allowing the use of glue. Even origami as an art has reached most of the countries of the world, still in most of them is not easy to find the proper origami paper.