AMMAN — A group of schoolgirls watched excitedly as Makoto Yamaguchi slowly began to fold the paper, carefully mimicking his moves with their own papers.
“I know this one, it is going to be a rabbit,” one sixth grader said.
“No, it is going to be a plane,” her friend rejoined.
The two girls were among 50 students who were introduced on Tuesday to the Japanese art of Origami, which entails folding paper to form various shapes and has been practised since around the 17th century.
Fourth Amman Secondary School for Girls’ students huddled over their origami papers at the UNRWA South Amman Office in Wihdat, giving Yamaguchi their undivided attention.
The 68-year-old Origami master, who has introduced young people around the world to the traditional Japanese art, walked the students through the necessary steps to create simple shapes using paper.
Over the course of two hours, the girls went on to make butterflies, birds, shirts and heart shapes out of the papers, with Yamaguchi leading the exercise and Origami masters Eiko Matsuura and Satoshi Kamiya checking on the students and guiding them.
The three masters were on a visit to the Kingdom organised by the Japanese embassy in Amman in cooperation with the Japan Foundation.
Sixth grader Bayan Haitham said she had no idea what Origami was before Tuesday.
“This is the first time that I have managed to make shapes out of paper,” Haitham told The Jordan Times, adding that she "can't wait" to teach her younger siblings how to practise Origami.
Fifth grader Aram Yousef could not hide her excitement throughout the Origami exercise, saying she was going to continue making all sorts of shapes out of paper at home.
“I want to make a rabbit,” she said, while her classmates Bisan Khaled, Hala Imad, Nancy Zuhair and Lana Mahmoud all chimed in with their favourite Origami shapes — a horse, a lion, a rocket or a house.
Art teacher Suha Suheil, who attended the introduction to Origami, said she was impressed with the way the students were drawn into the art form.
“I was also excited about this like them,” Suheil said, adding that she didn’t expect the students to manage to make all the shapes introduced in the session.
“Their abilities vary greatly, yet they all succeeded because he [Yamaguchi] walked them slowly through the process,” Suheil, who teaches grades from five to 10, noted.
Eman Hamdan, another art teacher, said she planned to incorporate such arts in her classes.
“My students really love art, but not all of them can draw. However, they can all be creative in something like this,” added Hamdan, who is also an artist by profession.
After the session, Yamaguchi who has 40 years of experience in Origami, said that although the students might not be able to apply everything they learned on Tuesday, seeing the smiles on their faces was the best reward he could hope for.
Speaking to The Jordan Times through an interpreter, he said that throughout his travels around the world to teach the basics of Origami, the most memorable times were when he saw children smile because of this centuries-old art.
By sharing his skills in Origami with children, noted Yamaguchi, who has written over 80 books on the Japanese art, he also shares “his life”.