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The quintessential origami design is the tsuru, or crane. In Japan, paper cranes are a token of good luck: it is said that a thousand cranes will bring you excellent luck. Unfortunately, this didn't work for Sadako of Sadako and the Thousand Cranes: nuclear war was too much for the little birds to handle, and she was forced to stop shy of seven hundred anyway. Nor did it seem to work when a Japanese exchange student at my high school gave her host family a thousand cranes as a gift on the birth of their first child: they were more confused than elated. But Sadako is on a monument in Hiroshima now, surrounded by paper cranes from all over the world; and as for that exchange student, she's now going to Aoyama Gakuin, a really awesome university. So believe the power of the crane!

Once you learn to fold a crane, folding a thousand is child's play. Here's how to do it.

NOTE: If the ASCII art in this writeup becomes unclear at any point (and I've got a feeling it will), cross-reference it with the plan at http://www.suba.com/~blonnie/orizuru.gif. If you're still having problems, ask a grown-up for help.

1. Get a square piece of paper. Size doesn't really matter (I've seen cranes made out of bubble gum wrappers), but you will probably want your first crane to be rather large. Fold it in half diagonally like so:

   /|
  / |
 /  |
/___|

2. Fold it in half again, this time along its centerline:

   /|
  / |  
 /\ |       /\
/__\|      /__\

3. You will now have two stacked triangles. Stick your finger inside one of the triangles, pull it open slightly, and flatten it into a square:

          __
 /\     /|  |
/__\   /_|__|
4. Now flip it over, and pull the other triangle up, like a fin.

|\      |
| \     |
|__\  __|__
side  front
5. Pop the fin open, and push it down to form another square.

6. Turn the square around so that it looks like a diamond, with the open end to the bottom and the closed end to the top. Then, fold the top of the diamond to the center, make a crease, and pull it back so you have something like this:

   .
  / \
 /___\
/     \
\     /
 \   /
  \ /
   '
7. Fold the two side corners of the front layer up to the crease, so that you have something vaguely resembling this:

   .
  / \
 /___\
/\ | /\
\ \|/ /
 \|||/
  \|/
   '
8. Now unfold the folds you made in Step 7. Take the front layer of the diamond and open it up slightly. Bring the bottom point up over the top, and flatten along the creases so that you have an oblong diamond superimposed over the square diamond. It should look something like this:

     .
    /|\
    |||
   /|||\
  / ||| \
  \ ||| /
   \|||/
    \|/
     ' 
...with the centerline of the oblong diamond over the horizontal crease you made in Step 6. Got it? Now here comes the crazy part:

9. Flip it over and repeat steps 7 and 8 on the other side. When you're done, you should have a single oblong diamond.

10. Now, let's ignore all the diagrams up to this point, and assume your diamond looks like this:

   .
  /|\
 / | \
/  |  \
\  |  /
 \ | /
  \|/
   '
Take the two side corners on the front layer, and fold them into the center so you get something vaguely like this:

   .
  /|\
 /_|_\
/\ | /\
\ ||| /
 \\|//
  \|/
   '
And repeat on the other side so you end up with this:

   .
  /|\
 /_|_\
 \ | /
  |||
  \|/
   |
   '
(That's supposed to be a diamond.)

The two leaves on top of this diamond will be the crane's wings, while the two half-leaves on the bottom will become its tail and head.

Now, to finish the crane, all you need to do is fold the half-leaves up inside themselves, so they come out between the crane's wings like this:

   |
  /|\
  /|\
 /_|_\
 \_|_/
And fold the tip of one forward, so that you get this:

   /__
  /|-'
  /|\
 /_|_\
 \_|_/
That's the crane's head. Some people like to stop their folding here, but if you want a prettier crane, adjust the neck and tail as you see fit:
_   .  __
\'./|\/|-'
 \/_|_\|
  \_|_/
Bend the wings down, and you've got a crane!

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