Make your money smile

Make your money smile

June 16, 2010
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edward wong
Origami master Hiroyuki Nakashima turns banknotes into fun figures. he was in Hong Kong to demonstrate his skills at a shopping mall. Photo: Edward Wong

We'd never say getting red packets is boring, but they are more creative ways to dish the cash, writes Zoe Mak

While you're planning how to spend or stash your New Year's cash, you might want to think of creative ways to pass it along to your friends.

There's nothing wrong with the traditional red packet, of course, but some nifty flips and folds in the notes can turn an ordinary bill into a work of art, and a special gift. Last week, a Japanese money-origami master was in town to work his magic for shoppers at a Sha Tin mall. He of all people knows the value of bank notes, but not in the usual way.

Hiroyuki Nakashima was having a tough time in 2006. He had no clue where he was headed in life, and trying to answer the big questions was overwhelming. One night, when it was too late to call a friend and things were particularly bad, he took his mind off his misery by trying to make his money smile.

Japan's 1,000 yen note carries a picture of Hideyo Noguchi, a famous scientist. Nakashima folded the note to corrugate Noguchi's face in such a way that it looked as if he was smiling. It was a simple origami trick that almost anyone who folds paper for a hobby can do.

"It's actually common knowledge to Japanese to make the face corrugated to get that smile," he says. Handing someone a smiley banknote is kind of like giving them one of those meaningful Hallmark cards.

"But I found this very interesting, so then I just continued and it really inspired me."

Four hours later he had not only given the man a smile but, just before dawn, he created a whole new look - he gave Noguchi a turban.

Then he started playing around with other notes. He made an Indian hat for Fukuzawa Yukichi with a 10,000 yen banknote and a pig with a US$1 banknote.

Nakashima is a singer in the rock band Apachi. He made a video containing instructions for the Noguchi in turban origami and it became a big hit among netizens.

Nakashima has now become the money origami tatsujin, or master. He was in Hong Kong last week to host workshops on his craft. It was the first time he has used Hong Kong banknotes for origami, and he fell in love with the HSBC HK$20, making hats and helmets for the lion. "Many people in Hong Kong seem very interested in this, especially the housewives," he says.

Money has certainly made him successful but he disagrees that money is everything, and he is glad people appreciate his creative art.

"People once saw me paying for a bus ride with 'Noguchi in turban'. They were so inspired. They didn't want me to spend it so they treated me to the ride," he says.

Nakashima now has a day job as a salesman and he still plays in the band in his spare time. He says he would have loved to have stayed in Hong Kong for Lunar New Year, but he had a gig at the weekend in Japan. But don't fret. If you want to learn to make your money talk, you can head to the origami workshops at Yata department store in Sha Tin. They are on from 5pm to 6pm tonight and tomorrow, and will be hosted by The Chinese Origami Society.



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