The Japanese Crane, a Powerful Symbol in Japan

japanese crane
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Ever since the dawn of time, nature has never ceased to inspire cultures all over the world. This is particularly the case in Japan where fauna and flora play an important role in many myths and legends. Shinto beliefs, yokai worship... the symbolism of animals is very present in Japanese folklore and arts.

Moreover, the Japanese crane is among the most emblematic creatures of the archipelago. A true muse, it is appreciated for its beauty and its spiritual significance.

Discover this mysterious and popular creature living in Japan!

🦩 The Japanese crane, a majestic bird

The Japanese crane

With its wingspan of over two meters, the Japanese crane is one of the largest birds in the world. It can be recognized by its long beak, its white plumage bordered with black and its red spot on the head. The Japanese crane, also known as the red-crowned crane or Manchurian crane, is a very elegant animal. This large wading bird of the order Gruiformes, belongs to the family Gruidae (large land birds).

Each year, Japanese cranes migrate north and travel many miles to Siberia. Once arrived there, they go to breed and incubate their eggs. They are known for their unparalleled seductive dance during the breeding season in spring. Particularly graceful, with its long legs and slender silhouette, it parades with jerks, majestically spreads its wings and delicately stretches its neck while singing.

Did you know that these monogamous birds often choose their mate for life... how romantic is that ❤️? In addition, pairs build their nests together in marshes and wetlands, before giving birth to baby cranes 🐣. Usually, cranes lay two or three eggs and, unfortunately, only one young will survive.

In the past, the Japanese crane almost became extinct due to hunting and urbanization. However, thanks to the preservation measures of the species, Japan now counts more than a thousand individuals. With its grace, rarity and long life expectancy, this endangered bird has inspired many Japanese legends.

🍀 Symbolism of the Japanese crane

Japanese crane on a branch - ohara koson

Japanese crane on a pine branch by Ohara Koson, 1900-30, Japanese woodblock print in color.

The crane has a positive image in many cultures, except in India where it represents betrayal. In China, for example, it embodies immortality, in Germany it is the emblem of the messenger of God and in Greece, the crane represents purity.

In the Land of the Rising Sun, the Japanese crane symbolizes peace, luck and longevity. This sacred animal is also associated with loyalty and wisdom. Thus, many beliefs and superstitions emanate from this bird of happiness known as Tsuru:

It is said that a crane can live 1000 years or that a couple of cranes presage a happy marriage. It is also said that you have to fold 1000 paper cranes in order to have your wishes granted. Note that this requires quite a bit of patience 😓! Lastly, the return of this migratory bird represents the soul of the ancestors.

Japanese crane prints... motifs on traditional fabrics, this friendly animal appears on a regular basis in Japanese art and folklore.

➡️ View our collection of Japanese art work.

🪶 Japanese crane tattoo: what is the meaning? 

japanese crane tattoo

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With its strong symbolism and majestic silhouette, the crane is an extremely popular choice of tattoo in the archipelago. For good reason, this bird has many spiritual meanings: longevity, fidelity, beauty, perseverance and even good fortune. Adopted by both men and women, a Japanese crane tattoo on the back, shoulder or other part of the body brings good luck to the wearer.

🔰 Japanese crane origami

Japanese crane origami

The Japanese are the masters of traditional folding art known as origami. "oru" means "to fold" and "kami" means "paper". This ancient practice was originally reserved for religious ceremonies. In addition, the techniques of folding can be found in the Hiden Senbazuru Orikata, a manual dating from the Edo period. In the archipelago, the crane origami, a symbol of good luck, is a classic.

🕊 The legend of a thousand cranes

In Japan, it is common to offer paper crane garlands (senbazuru) to the suffering people to help them heal. The garland must be made according to the rules of art: the garland must be made while praying and all the cranes must be linked together. This popular belief is associated with the legend of Sadako Sasaki and the legend of the thousand cranes.

Each year, in Hiroshima's Peace Park, the Sadako Sasaki statue is covered with Japanese cranes in origami to carry a message of hope. The memorial recalls the sad and moving story of a little girl who suffered from leukemia as a result of radiation from the atomic bomb that devastated the area on August 6, 1945.

Sadako Sasaki had started a garland of 1000 origami cranes in the hope of recovery. Unfortunately, she died of illness at the age of 12 without having finished her work. Upon her death, her classmates folded the last 356 cranes.

origami paper

👉 How to fold an origami crane?

The paper crane, called orizuru in the Land of the Rising Sun, is relatively easy to fold. Looking for a creative workshop? Japan Avenue offers a small tutorial to help you:

  • Use a square, colored or patterned piece of paper.
  • (Origami paper, tissue paper, kraft paper or crepe paper...)
  • Fold the paper in half in one direction and then in the other direction to mark the folds.
  • Unfold, you obtain a cross
  • Then fold in half to form a triangle and repeat on the other side.
  • Unfold, you get an asterisk (these folds will help you to realize the continuation)
  • Fold the sheet in half to make a triangle, then in half again to make a smaller triangle.
  • Fold the top part down to obtain a square (origami kite technique).
  • Turn your work over and do the same on the other side to obtain a square
  • Fold the tips of the upper part along the diagonal.
  • Fold and unfold the top part to get a crease.
  • Start from the square and lift the top corner up.
  • Flatten, following the folds from the previous step.
  • Turn your work over and repeat the above step.
  • Take the outer corners and fold them over the center line.
  • Turn the origami over again and repeat this step.
  • Fold the tips up to make two folds and pull them in.
  • Pull the wings outward and hocus pocus... your crane appears!


In addition to being a graceful animal, the Japanese crane holds a strong significance in Japanese culture. Emblem of peace and hope, this lucky bird will bring you luck and longevity.


Lester Prolles

Lester Prolles

I Crazyly interested about Japanese Crane,
That someday in Japanese Spring Period,
I watch their Return from Siberian Plateau Going Back to the Winter Mountain Range of Hokkaido, Northern Japan.

I Crazyly interested about Japanese Crane,
That someday in Japanese Spring Period,
I watch their Return from Siberian Plateau Going Back to the Winter Mountain Range of Hokkaido, Northern Japan.



Thankyou for your video, my girlfriend 30 years my junior from Tokyo asked for 9 Cranes for Christmas and I have been practicing and love your video, very helful.

Thankyou for your video, my girlfriend 30 years my junior from Tokyo asked for 9 Cranes for Christmas and I have been practicing and love your video, very helful.

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