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When it comes to Japanese handicrafts, almost everyone has heard about the amazing shapes achievable with origami. But how many people are familiar with Japanese orange peel art?

In the cold winter months, it’s an unspoken tradition for Japanese people to curl up under a kotatsu (heated table with a blanket thrown over it) and eat mikan (Mandarin oranges). However, many people have found that just eating these winter treats is not enough to satisfy them, and cutting away the peel into complex shapes has become a common art form. You’ll be amazed by the creatures that can come to life from a single orange peel!

In 2010, the company Shogakukan released the first volume of a picture book series known as Atarashii Mikan no Mukikata (New Ways to Peel a Mikan) by Yasuhiro Okada. The book contains 25 diagrams for creating animals and other shapes out of simple mikan peels. Every art piece is created using a single unbroken sheet of mikan skin.

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Beginners can start small and simple, with items like this snail:

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But the really impressive works come when the peel is removed entirely from the mikan. Take these monkey, bird, and horse pieces for example!

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▼ Or how’s this for a challenge?

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Making mikan art requires at least one Mandarin orange, a cutting utensil, like a box cutter or an X-Acto blade, and a toothpick. In case the diagrams or the finished works aren’t enough to help you envision how to make your cuts, New Ways to Peel a Mikan Volume 2 comes with a DVD of instructional videos demonstrating how it’s done. YouTube offers us more!

Now, not all mikan art is accomplished with just one sheet of peel. Items like hats, helicopters and elephants are often made by separating different parts of the peel and building them back around the mikan, sometimes even stacking two oranges on top of one another. Foreign sites have also explored the potentials of orange art, though they rarely hold to the Japanese obsession of keeping the peel in one piece. Although the creativity sprung from taking extra liberties is also quite fun to look at.

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So, the next time you go to peel yourself an orange, stop and think whether or not you’ll really be satisfied with just peeling your fruit before eating it. Perhaps try a bit of orange art and explore your creative side while enjoying your healthy snack! Here are a couple of diagrams from New Ways to Peel a Mikan to get you started!

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Source: Naver Matome (Japanese)
Images: Enjoy! Magazine, Amazon Japan, jokebot131108, CHRYSANTHEME311, toboe1202, EhonNavi