Sadako Sasaki and the Thousand Origami Cranes

Sadako was quiet, listening to the leaves on the maple tree rustles in the wind. Then she said, “I’m going to die next, aren’t I?”.  “Of course not!” Nurse Yasunaga answered with a firm shake of her head.  She spread some colored paper on Sadako’s bed. “Come and let me see you fold another paper crane before you go to sleep. After you finish one thousand birds, you’ll live to be an old, old lady.”  Sadako tried hard to believe that. She carefully folded cranes and made the same wish.

Four hundred and sixty three….. Four hundred sixty four…

My visit to Hiroshima leads me to the discovery of one true heartbreaking story about a young girl whose only wish is to live longer.

She was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on the morning of August 6, 1945. Her name is Sadako Sasaki and her home is about a mile from the center of the explosion. She grew up just like any ordinary girl, whose immediate goal is to be the fastest runner on the relay contest at their school Field Day and someday make it to their junior high school team. Her mother often tells people that Sadako learned to run before she could even walk.

On a cold, winter day of February, Sadako was running on a school yard where she fell on the ground. Her parents are worried so they brought Sadako to the Red Cross Hospital.

Sadako developed a swelling on her neck and behind her ears; later on purple spots had appeared on her legs. During that time, there has been an increase case of similar symptoms among the surviving children of the tragedy and later on was identified as “leukemia” caused nonetheless by radiation, but commonly called among locals as the “atomic bomb disease”. Her condition has worsened; she was hospitalized and given a year to live.  Sadako was afraid that she will be like the others, who entered the hospital and never come out again.

Her frequent visitor is her best friend Chizuko Hamamoto, who on one of her visits folded a piece of golden paper crane in reference to the Japanese belief that anyone who folded a 1, 000 origami cranes can have their wish granted by Gods. Chizuko only wish is for her friend sickness to go away.

Wanted to heal and to be able to go back to school, Sadako started folding paper cranes with one goal in mind- to complete the 1,000 origami cranes. She asked her brother to hang them on the ceiling of her hospital room and whenever she look at them, the paper cranes give her a surge of energy and more willingness to get better.

Despite running out of papers, Sadako is determined to reach her goal by using whatever paper available at the hospital; she would ask other patients if she can use the papers from their presents, while Chizuko also brings papers from school and Nurse Yasunaga often gave her the packages of medicines.

At the age of 12, on the morning of October 25, 1955, surrounded by her family, Sadako Sasaki passed away.   She completed only 644 origami cranes.

Her schoolmates completed the remaining 356 paper cranes. All thousand cranes were buried together with Sadako.

A collection of Sadako’s letters was published by friends and schoolmates in order to raise funds to build a memorial dedicated for her and all the children who died from the effects of the atomic bomb. In 1958, Sadako Sasaki statue holding a golden crane with outstretched hand (Children’s Peace Monument) was unveiled at Hiroshima Peace Park  and a Folded Crane Club was organized in her honor.

Up to these days, members still place thousand cranes at Sadako Sasaki’s statue during Peace Day and their unified wish is engraved in the statue:

“This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace on Earth.”

7 thoughts on “Sadako Sasaki and the Thousand Origami Cranes

  1. hi, I’m a journalism student at IU, and I’m writing a story about this currently. Do you think you have any time for an interview?
    Thank you!
    -Janica Kaneshiro

    1. Hi Janica,

      I’m very sorry for the late reply.
      If you still need my help, you can send me the questions and I will try to answer them back immediately.

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