Kami-fusen (紙風船), or paper balloons, are a very colorful and playful part of Japanese traditional arts and crafts. They were supposedly born in the 1890's as an affordable alternative to rubber balloons and other toys, when the wives of fishermen made them for their children. They soon ballooned in popularity (forgive me) and became popular as toys, decoration, and even advertisement. Easily inflatable, children would blow the kami-fusen up and then bat them around as long as possible to keep them afloat. Seen as a whimsical reminder of the "good 'ol" Showa days, it should come as no surprise that a graduate of an Art University in Kyoto (perhaps Japan's traditional mecca), is tapping into nostalgia to make some beautiful animal-themed paper balloons.

Masuda Yutaro's gallery consists of crafts made from traditional Japanese paper, keeping in with the spirit of Kyoto, but his kami-fusen collection features some charming animal-motif paper balloons.

This classic goldfish design, a motif that decorates artwork and clothing throughout Japanese history, comes in different colors and make for a beautiful decorative piece.

Adding in a little comical but adorable touch is a kami-fusen modeled after a puffer fish. Considered a Japanese delicacy, the fish is a natural fit to the inflatable nature of kami-fusen.

A sparrow model of the kami-fusen seems at home breezing through the air as an outdoor decoration, and can shrink in size depending on its inflation level.

Masuda's kami-fusen can be purchased at his Minne site, unfortunately it only seems to ship domestically within Japan.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.