Spreading love through origami hearts

A HEARTFELT DISPLAY — People from across the world have sent origami hearts to Paper Tree in San Francisco’s Japantown. photo courtesy of Paper Tree

In light of the recent anti-Asian incidents that have occurred across the nation, Linda Mihara created the “Hearts for Love” campaign to spread positivity. Aiming to fold 1,000 origami hearts, the origami expert was inspired by the Japanese legend that says the gods will grant a wish to the person who folds 1,000 origami cranes.

On March 26, Mihara, who owns and manages the Paper Tree store in San Francisco’s Japantown, posted a call for origami hearts on Facebook. After the first week, the store reached its goal, thanks primarily to Bay Area residents.

The campaign then expanded its goal to 3,795 hearts to symbolize the number of hate incidents the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center documented from March 2020 to February 2021.

Origami hearts began flooding in from across the country, from California to New Hampshire, and even internationally, from Japan, she said. The store has received more than 6,195 hearts as of April 28.

Several of the origami hearts have handwritten messages on them, and a number of them were written by children. Mihara said some of the written messages included “be strong” and “we love you.”

“If we can foster the positivity in the younger generations, I think that’ll get us a step closer to eliminating Asian hate because it starts with your mindset and how you were brought up,” Mihara said.

Whereas Japanese Americans were specifically targeted during World War II — Mihara’s family members were incarcerated at the Heart Mountain concentration camp in Wyoming — she said today, the hateful sentiments are more generalized.

Fortunately, Mihara and her parents, Nobuo Mihara and Shizuko Mihara, have not encountered any anti-Asian incidents during the pandemic. While her parents are safe at home, Mihara goes about her day at the 53-year-old family business in the city’s Japantown.

Origami folding has helped the younger Mihara during the pandemic, as she has seen an increased interest in the art. Last August, she started holding a free virtual origami class on Saturday mornings, which people from around the world attend.

As for the campaign, Mihara said, “It’s affecting people in a positive way and I think if you can do that, then as an Asian American out in the world, you can continue to create that positivity through projects like this.”

To mail origami hearts to Paper Tree, visit https://gofoldme.com. To sign-up for the “Free Fold Origami Saturday” virtual classes, visit: http://ow.ly/YfSV50Evv12. Paper Tree is located at 1743 Buchanan St. in San Francisco’s Japantown.

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