Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sadako and the Thousand Cranes

Sadako Sasaki was born in January 1943 in Hiroshima, Japan. But 1943 was not a good time to be born in Japan, and Hiroshima was not a good place to be born.
Sixty-nine years ago tomorrow, on August 6, 1945, the atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima. Although Sadako lived not far from the center of the explosion, she was not visibly injured.
Just before her 12th birthday, though, she began to have symptoms indicating that something was wrong. It turned out that she had leukemia, or “atomic bomb disease” as it was often referred to in Japan then.
Most of you know about the Japanese art of paper folding, which the Japanese call origami. In the late 1700s, one of the first books on origami published in Japan was titled “How to Fold 1,000 Cranes.”
The crane has long been used in Asian cultures as a symbol for good health and longevity. According to Japanese tradition, anyone with the patience and commitment to fold 1,000 paper cranes will be granted their most desired wish.
After Sadako came down with leukemia, her good friend Chizuko came to her hospital room with a piece of gold-colored paper and scissors.
Reminding Sadako of the legend of the thousand cranes, Chizuko folded the first of what she hoped would become a string of 1,000 paper cranes that would lead to Sadako’s healing.
According to Eleanor Coerr’s popular book “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” (1977), at the time of her death on Oct. 25, 1955, only 644 paper cranes had been finished. The lack of paper is one reason more had not been folded.
Her classmates folded 356 more cranes, making 1,000 that were placed with her in her casket.
Sadako’s friends also dreamed of building a monument to her and for all the children who were killed by the atomic bomb.
Their dream became a reality when in 1958 a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane was unveiled in Hiroshima Peace Park. These words are engraved on the base of that statue:
          This is our cry, this is our prayer; peace in the world.
Every year hundreds of thousands of paper cranes are placed around Sakako’s memorial statue on August 6, which is widely observed in Japan as Peace Day.

Sadako wrote on the wings of one of her paper cranes, “I write peace on your wings, and you will fly all over the world.”
In the library at the church where June and I are members, there is a painting of a paper crane with those words cited at the bottom. This year people at our church also are folding 1,000 paper cranes and will send them to Hiroshima to be placed by Sadako’s statue in the Peace Park.
Even though Sadako’s wish to get well didn’t come true, her story has become known around the world.
This evening in Santa Barbara, Calif., the Nuclear Age Peace Age Foundation will host the 20th annual Sadako Peace Day with poetry, music, and reflections commemorating the story of Sadako. Their slogan this year is a good one: Reflecting on the past to assure a more peaceful future.
In 2002, Naomi Takeuchi, a Japanese-American woman, founded a business consulting organization she named 1000 Cranes. One page on its attractive website tells “The 1000 Cranes Legend.”
That page concludes by saying that Sadako’s story “stands as an inspiration to all, and a testament to the continued power of the paper crane as a compelling symbol for hope, love, honor, and peace.”
And so it does.


  1. Thanks, Leroy. I've read Sadako's story before. I think I might have brought a picture book back from Japan for my niece about Sadako. Hm... I'm sorry, though, we didn't get to Hiroshima. We did the memorial park in Nagasaki. Those are difficult places to visit.

  2. Well, the park in Nagasaki perhaps doesn't quite measure up to the one in Hiroshima, but the museum there, especially after they renovated it (and that would have been what you saw), is quite impressive and I am glad you got to visit it.

  3. "I am not afraid... I was born to do this." --Joan of Arc

    "I dreamt of a country where education would prevail." --Malala Yousafzai

    "Who would ever think that so much went on in the soul of a young girl?" --Anne Frank

    1. Craig, thanks for sharing these quotes from three other outstanding girls.

  4. A brief, but meaningful, comment from local Thinking Friend Temp Sparkman:

    "Peace in the world appears less likely every day, but from these small gestures of folding cranes, hope for peace is kept alive."

  5. Another "short and sweet" comment from Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson:

    "That is profoundly moving, Leroy. Thank you for reminding us where the paper crane entered the peace movement."

  6. I remember Katrina visiting you one summer on a Girl Scout exchange, and folding cranes to be taken on tour around the world. I regret that she never had the opportunity to visit the Nagasaki Peace Park.

  7. Just finished reading "One Thousand Paper Cranes: The Story of Sadako and the Children's Peace Statue" (1997) by Takayuki Ishii, a Japanese man who was a pastor (UCC and UMC) in the States until his retirement in 2011.

    His explanation about Sadako and the paper cranes is somewhat different from what I read in the book I cited in the article above.

    He actually visited with Sadako's parents and siblings. In his small book gives a lot of the historical background of the Sasaki family as well as of Sadako and the paper cranes.

  8. Thinking Friend Vicki Price lives in Texas where she has been a university professor for decades. But in 1966 Vicki was a relatively new missionary in Japan, and June & I met her shortly after we arrived there in September of that year.

    I appreciate Vicki giving me permission to share the following comments:

    "I never tire of reading that story, although I cry every time I do so. Visiting the Peace Museum in Hiroshima is something I shall never forget. O that peace could come throughout the world, and that no nuclear weapon will be used again!"

  9. Well, it looks like Leroy has been doing some paper folding of his own. Just above the fold on page A6 in today's Liberty Tribune is his open letter to Congressman Sam Graves about the child refugees from Central America. For those who lack access to the physical newspaper, here is the online link: http://www.libertytribune.com/opinion/community_voices/article_d3bb8bca-26c5-5f17-a1fe-d25842904c46.html

  10. Thinking Friend Virginia Belk, who lives in New Mexico and along with her husband Fred were friends when we were students at William Jewell College together, wrote telling how she read the story of Sadako to her ESL students back in the 1990s--and wrote the following poem about Sadako. I appreciate her sharing this with me and the readers of this blog.


    Made cranes of paper
    As expression of hope
    for recovery
    Desired in her heart
    As prayers for peace
    no replication

    February 1990