An array of cute little Kokeshi dolls turned into origami by Cochae. Watch out for them in our shop!!

Cochae: The Graphic Origami Unit

Cochae, our favourite modern origami unit, has been on Ping briefly before. However, this time, we can’t resist introducing you to their best graphic origami made out of photocopied collages in greater length. And it’s not only because we always recommend their folded creations as ideal souvenirs to foreign friends before they try to spend a fortune at Tokyu Hands… (Next time, try our very own shopPingMag!) PingMag visited their studio in Mishuku, Tokyo, to talk to Yosuke Jikuhara and Miki Takeda, and show you some of their loveliest origami pop art.

Written by Chiemi
Translated by Natsumi Yamane

First of all, how did Cochae as an origami unit start?

Yosuke: Origami expert Yasuo Mitsumori — an ex-member of Cochae — was our friend from high school and it all started when Miki, Yasuo and myself wanted to do something with his origami and made a ‘free paper’ in 2003. Origami is fun, but it can end up in the rubbish in a very short time. Back then, we wanted to make an almost magical kind of object that would never be thrown away.

What was this ‘free paper’ like?

Yosuke: It was printed on coarse paper because it was made on a very low budget, and it featured a bird origami devised by Yasuo with instructions on how to make it, and a folk tale to go with it. That came in the days before we called ourselves Cochae.

Cochae’s first and original ‘free paper.’ You can cut out the top right square to make the bird origami.

For your first attempt, the graphic looks really accomplished…

Miki: Actually, it’s not all that different from what we do now. Back then, we didn’t have computer access so we made it analogue-style by cutting out bits of magazines, photocopying them, and sticking the copied bits on to another piece of paper with glue.

We’ve been wondering about this before, but do you usually start with how to fold the origami first?

Yosuke: At the time, Yasuo came up with how to fold them first and we unfolded the original origami step by step to fill in the photos. We were so immersed in making this ‘free paper’ that we stayed up all night and finished it in one day! Then we were contacted by a fashion magazine called “Soen” and we inadvertently blurted out that we also had several other pieces, which wasn’t true at all! Back then, we were all badly off for money, so we picked up old magazines from the garbage and made the next piece of work… And this is it!

The “Naked” origami from Cochae’s early Collage series was made from porn magazines found in the garbage! The sheet at the bottom is their handmade original copy.
From their commercialised series “Collage,” clockwise from left, “Bird,” “Rabbit,” “Ogre,” “King Fisher” and “Naked.”

Wow, the way they’re folded is so intricate!

Yosuke: The harder ones would take around 20 minutes to fold, I think. Actually, I used to be really useless at origami and that led to this next piece of work called “Ore Orenai” (I Can’t Fold,) which turns into a face with only three folds!

The bitterness of not being able to fold, led to this next work, “Ore Orenai” (I Can’t Fold.) What a great play on words!

Yosuke: From around that time, we discovered that the impact of an instant result is really fun and gradually shifted to easier works. Then we found documents on traditional origami with illustrations from the Taisho period at Miki’s parents’ house. We thought we had to have them reprinted, and arranging them all led to our next “Koten” (Classics) series. We wanted to distribute them in a different form, so that more people would get to know these great designs by anonymous amateurs.

From their “Koten” (Classics) series, “Fukusuke Doll,” “Crane” and “Tortoise,” etc.

After that, you created several more works — and discovered a minor problem in the process…

Miki: Graphic origami is fun but we realised that it had lost the diversity of actual origami, where you can fold so many things from a single piece of paper. Then we came up with the idea for the “Funny Face Card,” which allows you to make numerous different faces depending on how you fold the sheet.

Easy and fun to make many different faces depending on the folding: the “Funny Face Card!”
It just has been awarded the Good Design Award. Congrats!

What has made your self-published origami so popular? We saw you can buy it in many places.

Yosuke: That’s because we appeared in a TV drama as ourselves. (Laughs) Also, Cochae was featured in the media including a major info TV program called Hanamaru Market on TBS.

Wow, being featured on Hanamaru Market probably brought you tons of enquiries!

Miki: Exactly! We were flooded by requests from housewives! (Laughs) Our stance hasn’t changed much since then, but our products have increased a lot.

We guess your clients sometimes ask you to make origami of something specific, but do you provide them with just the instructions on how to make one?

Yosuke: No, we make everything for them. For example, in the case of the “Hello Kitty” exhibition in Hong Kong, our client simply told us that anything would do as long as the finished product is Hello Kitty. But sometimes, we have requests for characters to be made round like the original, but that just ends up in a kind of disclaimer argument, where we defend it saying “But it’s origami in the first place so we can’t make it perfectly round!” (laughs)

Hello Kitty’s “Hide&Seek” exhibition in Hong Kong. The Tee on the right can be folded into the shape of a Hello Kitty face.

That’s impossible! Incidentally, your works all seem to have a uniform kind of atmosphere. Are you interested in folk art?

Yosuke: Yes, we are greatly influenced by folk arts and folk toys. I think folk toys are great and affordable art objects created by anonymous craftsmen. There are so many fantastic designs in folk toys, you know! Every time I go to different places in Japan, I can’t resist looking for what’s available in the area. I first started with kites and Daruma dolls by wood workers and recently, I’m into collecting Kokeshi dolls.

Cochae’s favourite Daruma doll and sake decanter (left) and their alter-like collection of numerous Kokeshi dolls (right.)

Also, your works often feature animals…

Yosuke: Yes, we love animals! And things like folk toys give us those feelings vividly. We would like to inherit that and take it further…

Wonderful! In the future, would you like to make something that incorporates the traditions of folk toys?

Yosuke: We’ve been thinking about it for a long time and beside folk toys, we also hope to spread other such ephemeral and fading arts created by common people.

Cochae’s Miki Takeda (right) and Yosuke Jikuhara (left.)

Finally, what’s the appeal of origami?

Yosuke: We’d say that it’s the diversity and the fact that it’s fun to play with origami! Our name Cochae means, “First-timers welcome.” We hope to keep on making things that everyone can enjoy, things for amateurs in a good sense!

Miki and Yosuke of Cochae, thanks very much for giving us such a enjoyable time today!

Our very own sweet shopPingMag is opening a Cochae shop for one month only! Go, people, and grab some quickly! May the fun origami graphics reach everybody across the world!

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    Uff that looks really impressing! Much respect for the artists!

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    hello kitty should sue them for infringement.

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    This was an awesome article! I really enjoyed it! Thanks so much!

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    The Hello Kitty stuff was done in collaboration with Sanrio for the Hide&Seek exhibit.

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    am in love with the folded face (‘^`)
    thanks for sharing..

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