Miura-ori lab. Co., Ltd., is located in Sumiyoshi-cho—nearly the center of Shinjuku—on the sixth floor of a building along "Yasukuni-dori" avenue, a one-minute walk from Akebonobashi Station of the Toei Shinjuku Line. Founded in 1996, the company has six employees. Although it is not well known to the general public, the company operates a wide range of businesses, leveraging the folding technique of the "miura-ori," which has been used in solar panels for artificial satellites. The following is an excerpt of an interview with President Yumi Ahiko, who says “Tokyo is the best place to raise awareness of the ‘miura-ori’ folding technique.”
We are the only company that operates under a licensing agreement for the “miura-ori" folding technique, which was created by Koryo Miura, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo.
"Miura-ori" is a folding method originally created to expand the dimensions of spacecraft panels, and it has also been used in the solar panels of the Space Flyer Unit (SFU) and the large space antennas for the Radio Astronomical Satellite "HALCA." Speedy opening and closing are the most striking feature, which is enabled by pulling diagonal corners to right and left. For example, an A2-size sheet (574 x 430 millimeters) can be folded into a palm-sized sheet of just 78 x 112 millimeters.
The “miura-ori,” with its high functionality and excellent design, was selected in 2006 as one of the 100 best “New Japanese Styles (Japanesque Modern)," a contest initiated by the “Japanesque Modern Committee.“
The “miura-ori” is a unique folding method for repeatedly making four parallelograms. When Professor Miura made public the “miura-ori” as a map-folding technique in 1970, it attracted attention both at home and abroad. Many companies attempted to commercialize this technique but failed to do so due to its unique structure, which is difficult to mechanize.
Thanks to these efforts made by the pioneers and the cooperation of Professor Miura, we became the first to mechanize this technique successfully. The “miura-ori” has now been used in various fields, including sightseeing maps, hazard maps, product brochures, and car window shade awnings.
For five consecutive years since 2007, the “miura-ori” has been used in the running-course and sightseeing maps of the Tokyo Marathon, which has become one of the signature winter events in Tokyo. We have received admiring comments from city runners and volunteer staff, who say that the maps are very convenient. In addition to paper products, the “miura-ori” has been gradually employed in a wider range of products, for instance in the “diamond-cut" cans of beverage manufacturers.
In today’s information society, business activities can be conducted via the Internet. Thus, some people say that it is not necessary to maintain an office in Tokyo, where the rent and maintenance costs are higher than in rural areas. In Tokyo, however, three resources, namely technology, people, and information, are concentrated. It is attractive to be in the city where we can directly contact and access these resources. Especially for young companies like us, it is very helpful to give explanation to our clients face-to-face, and let them to touch our products—as the saying goes, “Seeing is believing.”
At present, the “miura-ori” is employed mainly in sightseeing maps, disaster maps and advertising and sales tools, but it has more potential. We seek to work together with business partners in various fields to expand its potential.
Address: Shin-Akebonobashi Building 6th floor, 1-12 Sumiyoshi-cho, Shinjuku City, Tokyo