This summer I had the rare privilege of attending the 8th annual convention of the JOAS in Tokyo as one of two Yoshino Issei Fund Guests. It was an unforgettable experience.
The convention began Friday afternoon, on August 2, on the campus of Toyo University, a short walk from Gallery Origami House. Everyone assembled in a large auditorium-like classroom and we heard some opening speeches, followed by a business meeting. These were conducted in Japanese, so I could not understand them. A group of ten folders from America had come to Japan this year, and we sat together in the back of the room, folding quietly, and trying to follow the proceedings.
Vincent Floderer, the other Yoshino Issei Fund Guest, gave a speech that afternoon about his style and philosophy of origami, which I found interesting. He spoke in English and Koshiro Hatori-san translated for him.
Schedules for the convention were passed out, and except for the courses being taught by westerners, all the classes were listed in Japanese. Fortunately, one of our group, Anne LaVin, could speak and read a little Japanese, and she worked hard translating the schedule for the rest of us. The schedules have a very nice feature that I would like to see adopted by OUSA. -- they use icons to indicate which models require tools, or glue, and to show which are diagrammed in the convention book.
Saturday morning, we all met again in the large classroom for some more speeches and course ticketing. I gave a short speech about my origami, which Hatori-san translated. I also gave some advice on how to assemble the Transforming Paper Pentagon, which I had provided for the members as a gift in their convention packets. This is a small paper toy that I designed, made from 10 pieces of card stock, cut, folded and glued together to make a star shape that transforms into a pentagon and back.
Also, on Saturday morning, people set up their exhibits on tables in the hallway outside the classroom. I had brought many models from home, but most of them were set up at Gallery Origami House. At the convention I exhibited the Pulsar and several Kaleidogons (similar to the transforming pentagon), as well as three Orbs and my newest curved modular, "Arcturus".
The foreign visitors were given first priority for class tickets, so I got to take the classes that I wanted most. On Saturday, I took "Giant Atlas Beetle" from Jun Maekawa-san and "Lion" from Seiji Nishikawa-san. The Lion was diagrammed in the convention book, and though I did not have my own copy yet, the woman next to me in class allowed to me look at hers, so I was able to follow along. The Beetle, however, was not diagrammed, and Maekawa-san was concerned that I might have trouble, since he could not take time to translate for me. Even without understanding his words, his folds and gestures were so clear, that by sitting in the front row and paying close attention, I was able to make a fairly respectable model.
For my last class of the day, I taught the "Orb". This modular model uses circular creases that are scored with a compass. I brought a set of compasses for the class to use, since most origamists do not carry these in their kits. Setsuko Matsushita-san translated for me with such grace that my memories of this class are as if the students and I had conversed in the same language.
In the evening, most of us attended a marvelous banquet in a rented hall nearby. The food was plentiful and delicious. Dinner was served buffet-style, so we all had a chance to mingle. I got to talk to many J.O.A.S. members during the event. After dinner, Vincent Floderer and I received our awards, and gave short thank-you speeches.
On Sunday, I took two more classes and taught another. In the morning, I learned a charming squirrel from Tomoko Fuse-san. This class was followed by a collection of minimalist models taught by Koshiro Hatori-san. He taught a dozen or so models, including Paula Versnick's marvelous two-fold Santa, and then told us all to experiment and find our own designs. I showed him my two-fold Ski Resort, which he then taught the class. And before our very eyes, Fuse-san, who was also taking this class, invented the most elegant two-fold Noh Actress. I was so excited by it, I ran around all day showing it to my friends.
After lunch, I taught the Pulsar in a three hour long session, which Matsushita-san again translated for me. The Pulsar is not a difficult model, but it has 72 pieces, 24 each of three different kinds, and it can take a long time to finish. Unfortunately, none of my students were able to complete it in the time given, though most of them had enough pieces made that they understood the final assembly and would be able to finish it later. Also, I provided diagrams. Teaching this class showed me how the diagrams need to be altered to be more understandable by someone who cannot read the English explanations that accompany them.
The convention concluded in the large classroom, where the winners of the silent auction were announced. I had bid on one of a set of Origami patterned handkerchiefs and was glad to find that I had one of the high bids.
Throughout my visit to Japan, I was impressed by the kindness and friendliness of the Japanese people. So many people helped me in so many ways, I cannot begin to name them all. But I would like to give special thanks to Anne LaVin and Elsa Chen for their invaluable travel advice, Ushio Ikegami and Eiko Matsuura for their help in the days before the convention, Koshiro Hatori and Setsuko Matsushita for translating, the board of JOAS for selecting me, and most especially I want to thank Makoto Yamaguchi-sensei for doing so many things to make me feel welcome and to make my trip an experience that I will remember forever.