Senbazuru - a thousand origami cranes

Senbazuru: Thousand Origami Cranes

The crane is symbolic in Japan — it is considered to be a mystical or holy creature like dragons and tortoises. The crane is said to live for a thousand years, which is why people make a thousand origami cranes, one for each year of its life.

Senbazuru (千羽鶴), or the thousand origami cranes, are commonly seen at temples in Japan. Senbazuru, when grouped and held together by a string, are called orizuru. According to some stories, the thousand origami cranes must be made within the span of one year and only by one person, and anyone who completes this daunting task shall be rewarded with a wish. Some people also believe that they are granted eternal good luck instead of just one wish. Once the maker of the thousand cranes makes his wish, he can give the cranes as a present to someone else.  This makes the senbazuru a popular gift to family and friends. It is also given as a traditional wedding gift by the father for a thousand years of happiness and prosperity for the couple. A senbazuru in your home is considered a powerful charm.


Several temples in Japan have eternal flames dedicated to prayer for world peace. Many people offer senbazuru at these temples to add to the prayers for peace. The origami cranes are left exposed to the elements until they become tattered and wither away, releasing the wish. This practice is said to be related to the prayer flags of Tibet and India.

The materials to make senbazuru, such as origami paper, are easily available in Japan. Origami paper for senbazuru is usually of solid colors and  6×6 inches in dimension. There are sets that include 1000 sheets of paper or even more to allow for mistakes, beads to keep the origami cranes from slipping off, and string to hold them together. There are usually 25 strings with 40 cranes each in a senbazuru charm. Learn how to make a paper macaw as practice and possibly complete all 1000 cranes to make your wish come true.