Who would have thought a folded sheet of paper shaped into an animal can bring a huge impact to the globe?
The personality of the crane possesses a sacred place in the core of the Land of the Rising Sun – often shows the tendency as the most famous and beloved origami figure used to convey expressions of happiness at times of celebration. Behind the global recognition of the power of paper cranes as a modern day symbol of peace catalyzed from the memory of a young Hiroshima victim. The story of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who miraculously survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb during World War II but was exposed and suffered from radiation poisoning as an infant. She initially had a fairly normal childhood – even as an active member of her school’s relay team until her good fortune plummeted when she was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the bone marrow at the age of twelve. During her hospitalization, her best friend Chizuko paid her a visit bringing pieces of origami paper and reminded her about the magic behind folding a thousand paper cranes. One paper crane epitomizes one year of life. Sadako was inspired by the senbazuru legend, thus began folding cranes until she reached a total of 644 folded figures and eventually stopped to her unfinished paper because of her weak condition before she passed away. Her family and classmates completed the remaining paper cranes in her honor.
Recognized as the girl who folded 1000 paper cranes, the co-founder of the NPO Sadako Legacy and her brother, Masahiro Sasaki described her activities of origami as the release of their parent’s pain and her own agony with each crane, tolerating her own suffering through the art form. Her strength moves the heart of humanity, including an Austrian journalist and a holocaust survivor himself, Robert Junk by her attitude to life, her intelligence and her consideration of her parent’s feelings. Masahiro’s nonprofit organization bears the message of his sister which her spirit acts as an encouragement for others to speak of her bravery. The cranes Sadako made rests in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum along with other millions of paper cranes received from around the world.
There is also a monument of Sadako holding a golden crane erected in Hiroshima’s Peace Park in 1958 along with a plaque on the statue reads “This is our cry, this is our prayer, peace in the world,” – representing a child’s hope and plea for world peace. Every year, thousands upon thousands of wreaths of senbazuru are draped over her statue as a tribute of her bravery and to keep that hope alive. Masahiro who is the survivor of the Hiroshima bombing like his sister once stated that hatred only ever breeds hate and never raises love; to stop recollecting the horrors and destruction wars has done, mankind should humbly face and learn about each other, in the means to open their hearts to their counterparts. His sister’s death granted him a great purpose. Small peace is so important with empathy and delicacy that it becomes like a big ripple effect bridging the gap that Sadako displays exactly how she did it. According to him, feigning ignorance of a little peace will not progress to create a greater peace, therefore he takes a liking to collecting good wishes and wills and spreading them to the world. Feeling a sense of duty and responsibility of the Sasaki family to tell his sister’s story, Masahiro hopes the people can acknowledge the lesson from Sadako’s short life. The senbazuru icon is remembered today as a worldwide symbol of the naive innocent children impacted by war.
Sadako Sasaki became a symbol of all the innocent lives lost during World War II. Her time in this world was short, but her legacy of hope lives on every time someone folds a paper crane. The activity of folding a thousand paper cranes unites people, hence the act of making senbazuru has been adapted on a larger scale. Anyone can decorate their area and residences with colorful cranes to commemorate world peace.
Today, senbazuru spread public awareness often for good causes or charitable fund-raising campaigns. Paper cranes became the symbol of healing in Japan; with the aid of Sadako Legacy for donating Sadako’s paper cranes around the world to places in need of healing such as the tragedy of 9/11 occurred in the World Trade Center located in New York City, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, city of São Paulo in Brazil which has a community of more than hundred atomic bomb survivors and Japan where a devastating earthquake and tsunami demolished the Fukushima Dai Ichi Nuclear Power Plant. Paper cranes are beginning to be recognized internationally as a tangible form of prayer for harmony or a way of supporting people facing difficult challenges – no longer limited to only a Japanese national treasure of luck, but also find their way in all corners of the world’s hearts as a global symbol of hope and resilience in the face of disaster.
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