Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sadako And The 1,000 Cranes

According to a Japanese legend, anyone who folds 1,000 paper cranes is granted a wish. In August 1955, 12-year-old Sadako Sasaki was hospitalized with leukemia developed as a result of nuclear fallout from the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima. At the suggestion of a friend, she began the painstaking folding process. Paper was scarce, so she scavenged for medicine wrappers, and visited other patients, asking if she could use the paper from their get-well presents. Two months later Sadako’s condition took a turn for the worse, but before she died on October 25th surrounded by her family, she completed her goal of 1,000 cranes.

Chains of paper cranes left by visitors to the Sadako Peace Memorial in Hiroshima (seen through the roof). Via

Sadako's story became a touchstone for the anti-nuclear movement throughout Japan and is well known throughout the world to this day. In 1958, a memorial in her honor and in tribute to all the children that died as a result of the bombing, was unveiled at Hiroshima, where visitors still leave chains of paper cranes.

This tradition was brought to the U.S. in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. Small chains of cranes were left on and near a fence at Broadway and Liberty Street near Ground Zero. These chains are now on permanent display at the Tribute WTC Visitor’s Center, alongside one of Sadako’s own cranes from 1955 which was donated by her family. In an event last year at Japan Society, Masahiro Sasaki, Sadako’s brother, said "Commonly in Japan, the crane is regarded as a symbol of peace. But for us, in the Sasaki family, it is the embodiment of Sadako's life, and it is filled with her wish and hope."

Three of Sadako's original cranes, one of which can be viewed at the Tribute WTC Visitor Center. Photo: Kazuko Minamoto

Marking the August 6th Hiroshima A-Bomb Memorial, Japan Society and the Tribute WTC Visitor Center present Sadako & 1000 Cranes Storytelling & Origami Crane Making. Children and families discover Sadako’s inspiring story through kamishibai, traditional Japanese paper-storytelling [check out this example from 1959]. There are two storytelling sessions. The first is in Japanese, featuring a new storybook created in cooperation with Sadako’s family. The second is a new English kamishibai version. Participants also learn to make a paper-crane chain of their own–including how to make 2-4 cranes out of one piece of paper

The event starts at the Tribute WTC Visitor Center (directions here) at 11:00 am with storytelling in Japanese. Then at 11:30, a bilingual origami crane-making session will be held, with the storytelling in English at Noon.


1 comment:

ryu-zen said...

I have to say that is a very touching and positive story. May Sasaki's spirit be the embodiment of what are lost human virtues: "preservation and endurance." The cessations of suffering will always end in peace and Sasaki was granted her wish, "to fly free as a crane in the bountiful Skies of Japan and the world."