Origami crane made easy

Origami cranes are the most iconic creations of the Japanese art of paper folding. They’re also beautiful, fun, and easy to make with a little practice – even for beginners.

Paper folding is a fun activity. Try making an origami heart or an origami Mayflower boat.

red paper origami crane hanging

How to make an origami crane

In this post, you’ll learn:

  • The symbolic meaning of cranes
  • What 1,000 origami cranes mean
  • How to fold an origami crane with step-by-step instructions

What is the origin of origami cranes?

People have been making variations of the origami crane for thousands of years in Japan. The paper crane is called an orizuru, which simply means “folded crane.”

origami crane

Origami, which means “folded paper,” developed in the 6th century for religious ceremonial purposes. As paper became less costly, origami’s popularity spread. Today people all over the world make origami, especially paper cranes.

Cranes are important in Japanese legends. The red-crowned crane was known as the “Honorable Lord Crane,” and said to live 1,000 years. In one legend, cranes carry souls up to heaven on their long wings.

Cranes are associated with success, good fortune and peace, which is why people make origami versions of the birds to hang in their homes and give as gifts to loved ones recovering from illness.

hands holding folded paper origami crane

Why 1,000 paper cranes?

According to Japanese legend, if you make a wish, then fold 1,000 origami cranes – one for each year of the crane’s life – the gods will grant it!

Legend had it that your wish would come true only if you folded all the cranes yourself, did it over the course of a single year, and kept them all together.

Made in batches of 1,000, they are strung together in a decoration called a senbazuru. Senbazurus are typically made up of 25 strings with 40 cranes each.


Today origami cranes are associated with world peace

The making of 1,000 origami cranes was popularized by the 1977 novel “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes,” by Eleanor Coerr. The story was based on the real life of Sadako Sasaki, a little girl who developed leukemia from radiation exposure a decade after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in World War II.

Sadako was hospitalized in 1955, given only one year to live. As she lay in her hospital bed, she made a wish to survive. She began folding paper cranes hoping to have her wish granted according to the legend.

Sadako’s health worsened, and as she worked toward 1,000 cranes, she changed her wish to something larger than her own life: she wished for world peace. Tragically, Sadako Sasaki died at age 12, after eight months in the hospital.

In the story, Sadako did not reach her goal of 1,000, but her classmates completed her task and laid a beautiful wreath of origami birds at her grave. In real life, Sadako Sasaki is memorialized with a statue at Hiroshima Peace Park, where thousands of senbazuru wreaths are draped over her monument every year.

Sadako Sasaki statue at Hiroshima Peace Park

How to fold an origami crane

Here are printable step by step instructions for how to make an origami crane and also a helpful video.

download here —> printable origami paper crane instructions

illustrated printable origami instructions

Follow along and learn how to make one with the step-by-step origami crane instruction video below. All you need is a square piece of paper, in a bright color or pattern if you’d like. The paper doesn’t have to be special origami paper, but it needs to be a square.

Now you know how to make an origami swan!

This tutorial is so fun. Make more origami animals or try one of these amazing origami flowers.

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  1. I’m trying origami for the first time so it was a little rough but I think I did all right 😉 UvU

  2. Thank you. Was looking for the history as well, which I very much appreciate you having included.
    My father is dying, and I was hit by the idea of making a few cranes, and as I see the legend that the cranes carry souls to heaven, it feels incredibly appropriate. And some world peace, too.

    Thanks again!

  3. I love the idea and the very detailed instructions. This is a good idea for the kids since they will be spending a lot of time at home!

  4. If you fold only one side (the neck side), you can make the wings flap. For example, step 13, fold the right side, and step 15, fold the left side, and leave the tail side unfolded.

  5. How fun, just showed my daughters and they are hard at work making some cranes for their room 🙂

  6. I miss making these! When I was in high school we made hundreds for our art class for a project and I completely forgot how to do it, this is a great reminder!

  7. My kids had so much fun making these with me. This is a great one for beginning origami.

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