San Francisco origami artist shows the power of paper to combat anti-Asian hate

In the face of recent anti-Asian hate and attacks nationwide, a San Francisco artist and business owner decided to launch a movement inspired by a Japanese tradition and the art of origami.

In Japan, there's a tradition that you fold origami cranes to make a wish, but this artist found a new way to show the power of paper.

Origami paper folding is about transformation. Look beyond a flat surface and gradually it comes to life in three dimensions.

That magic is Linda Mihara's mission as an origami artist and owner of The Paper Tree store in San Francisco.

In the wake of recent incidents of anti-Asian hate, she wanted to transform the hurt.

"I really wanted people to think about love. Because love is what conquers hate," said Mihara.

So she posted on her social media sites, a call for people to make origami hearts.

"The tradition, if you have a wish you want to come true, you fold 1,000 cranes. And I said, let's fold 1,000 hearts and make that the new thing," said Mihara.

What happened next was magical.

Bags, bundles, boxes of hearts began arriving at the Paper Tree store in Japantown from across the nation.

"This is from Sacramento. I saw one earlier from New York," said Mihara unpacking boxes that are now piling up at the back of her store.

People from San Diego, Maryland, Illinois, even Japan, have answered her call.

"It's just been's great," said Mihara, "It's like I'm getting buckets of love you know. Envelopes of love. It's just incredible."

More than 1,000 hearts arrived in just the first week. Many had messages from people young and old, handwritten, and heartfelt.

"Stand tall and stay strong. Love, love, love," said Mihara reading the messages, "Love who you really are."

One by a young student said, "I feel so bad that you are going through that but remember we face it together."

Each piece is finding a home in her shop window. They will be on display for the whole community during the upcoming Cherry Blossom Festival and May's AAPI heritage month, in the heart of Japantown, where the community has struggled before, through anti-Asian hate and hardships.

"My father, my uncle, my grandparents and great-grandparents were all interned at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. So that's only a generation away," said Mihara, "It's really unfortunate, but we hope that we can learn from that and we learn to treat each other with love."

The love keeps coming. Mihara says she has now received 3,207 hearts. She hopes to collect nearly 4,000, one for each of the anti-Asian incidents reported to the #StopAAPI hate movement.

For Mihara, the hearts represent a world of people united by compassion.

"It just gives me hope and I'm just like reinvigorated," said Mihara, "I have belief in humanity now you know."

Looking at the boxes of origami hearts, you might say the proof is in the paper.

For information in the project, click here.  

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or