Paper Crane Tattoo Meaning, Design & Ideas

The Japanese art of folding paper, better known as origami, has been around since the invention of paper. Buddhist monks dating back as far as the 6th century brought with them to Japan bundles of paper, these Buddhist monks would fold the paper in such ways that the ending result would come out looking like an insect or animal of some sort.

Due to the high cost of paper however, this creative new art form was used only on special occasions, usually for a wedding and other religious ceremonial purposes. As time went by and the word of origami spread across Asia, even in some parts of Europe, people from all walks of life were using this unique paper folding technique.

Samurai warriors would often create an origami ‘noshi’ to attach to presents and gifts, frequently, the noshi had a strip of meat inside of the fold, this was an expression of good fortune and luck.

The paper crane, or in Japanese, the orizuru, is one of the most ancient and classical origami designs. Based on the red-crowned crane which is said to be one of the rarest forms of crane in the world, this bird represents longevity, fidelity, and luck. This red-crowned crane is also referred to as the ‘Honorable Lord Crane’ so needless to say, the Japanese thought very highly of this beautiful, exceptional, creature.

The red-crowned crane was believed to carry our human souls on its wings, soaring to paradise. Paper cranes would be used as ceremonial wrapping paper and seen on restaurant tables as decoration. When a thousand paper cranes are folded and strung together, it is said that you are granted a wish, a wish to have anything you desire. This form of origami is called ‘senbazuru’ or in English, ‘thousand cranes’. The paper crane is a symbol of hope and healing during challenging times.

The love for the paper crane was made widely popular after the bombing of Hiroshima. When the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1946, a 2-year-old girl named Sadako Sasaki was exposed to the radiation of the bombs that were dropped. In 1956, when she was 12 years old, Sadako began showing signs of swelling behind her neck and ears and purple spots formed on her legs.

She was diagnosed with leukemia and given only one year to live. Knowing the legend of senbazuru, the one thousand cranes, Sadako insisted on going about folding 1000 paper cranes so she could simply have one wish.

That wish was to beat the leukemia and live. Sadako was able to fold around 1,400 paper cranes before she passed away. Sadako’s paper cranes were used and sent out to places of importance around the world. Some places that Sadako’s family sent these cranes are Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the site of the 9/11 memorial, and the Japanese American National Museum. Now these paper cranes are looked at as a symbol of hope, peace, and courageousness.

Paper Crane Tattoo Designs and Placement

The paper crane is art in itself. Tattoos of the paper crane have been growing popular, not only for the symbolism but because it is a really cool concept of being able to take a simple piece of paper and turn it into something beautiful just by making a couple of folds. Now with the idea of a paper crane as a tattoo, you can bring this symbol with you everywhere you go! The paper crane is a simple design that you can virtually do just about anything with and it will look good in just about any spot you decide to get it inked up on.

Questions to first ask yourself before jumping ahead and getting this tattoo. Will you come up with a graphic of the paper crane by itself, the classic black and white, or will you add some color to the paper crane giving it more of a poppy stand-out look? Think of the pose of the paper crane. Is the paper crane simply sitting and resting or does the paper crane have his wings spread, ready to take flight? Not only can you bring this paper crane tattoo to life by giving it vibrant colors and effects of it taking flight, but you can draw designs on the crane as well.

Designs Within Designs

Inscriptions of flowers and other symbols of peace and beauty are great ideas to have within your paper crane tattoo. Almost like giving your tattoo, a tattoo, inscribing graphics or even patterns on the wings and body of the paper crane makes the typical paper crane tattoo design a lot more fun to look at. It will make the tattoo, unique to you, considering you could put anything you want on this crane, this makes it creative and unlike any other paper crane tattoo.

Senbazuru, 1000 Cranes

Since paper cranes are often seen strung together, a tattoo of not one, but three paper cranes being held together by a string or even just linked to each other wing to wing, makes for a neat concept. A tattoo such as this since it will be a little bit more of a larger graphic, would look well going down an arm or even the side of your ribs. This gives the effect of the paper cranes dangling from each other but still kept together. When explaining this tattoo to someone, the story of the 1000 cranes always catches and keeps the attention of the listener.

It seems that no matter what paper crane design you decide to come up with, it is never a bad idea. These designs not only go with just about any other tattoo you may have, it are a strong reminder of peace and hope. This paper crane design can literally be whatever size you want. For smaller images, many people get this inked on their wrists and ankles.

Larger graphics can usually be seen on the upper arm or the pectoral muscles/chest. The upper thigh and even the calf is a cool placement depending on whether you want to show this tattoo off to the world or just keep it as a simple reminder of tranquility and hope.

Leave a Comment