Sadako was two years old when the atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima on that faithless August morning of 1945, one mile from ground zero.  Like thousands of other shocked but resilient survivors of the nuclear holocaust, the Sasaki family began the torturous road to recovery and rebuilding their shattered lives.

By age 12, Sasako had become an exceptionally thoughtful and considerate student, as well as a very talented runner at her school. The childhood idyll was abruptly interrupted when her lymph nodes became swollen and leukemia was the devastating diagnosis. She  entered Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital when her condition worsened. Coincidentally, in August of 1955, residents from Nagoya sent the hospital origami* cranes to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the bombing.

[*According to ancient legend, anyone folding one thousand cranes would be granted one wish, a long life or eternal good fortune. Sadako was a believer and embarked on the arduous task of creating the required number of cranes to regain her health. She reached 644 before her rapidly weakening condition brought the project to a halt; family and friends completed the task before she died Oct. 25, 1955. Sadako’s mother saved a few of the mementos, putting the rest in the coffin. Although the effort failed to save her life or health, the story evolved into a global phenomenon, especially for children. Today, at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, thousands upon thousands of origami paper cranes hang at Children’s Peace Monument, in fitting remembrance of Sadako and the thousands of other children who perished as a result of The Bomb. The origami paper crane has become the symbol of peace for children around the world.]

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“Remembering Sadako:  Folding for Peace” will be a four-day, multigenerational, multiethnic event promoting peace through arts and culture. To be staged at Japanese American Cultural and Community Center and Isamu Noguchi Plaza, Aug. 3 to 6, it will provide an opportunity for the community at large to remember Hiroshima Memorial Day.

The JACCC presentation will include: Crane workshop for peace, Aug. 3-4, at which time children will be told the story of Sadako and taught how to make an origami crane; Aug. 3-5 the community will participate in the construction of a sand mandala* for peace; an interfaith meditation and call for peace service will be conducted Aug. 5.  The celebration will conclude with a special concert by singer/songwriter Jackson Browne at the Aratani Theatre on Tuesday the 6th.  [A mandala is the symbol of contemplation in Buddhism; represented by a square within a circle.] 

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According to Dr. Ernie Nagamatsu, who provided CR2S with this introductory material, the motivation to tell the Sadako Sasaki story took root during a visit to Hiroshima many years ago. The poignant story was revisited when a friend related his personal story of surviving the A-bomb as a child. And then, in its own way, the recent Fukushima earthquake, tsunami and atomic apocalypse revived the tale of Sadako once again. As a member of the JACCC Board of Governors, Nagamatsu suggested the idea of a joint commemorative, which in turn led to plans for this unique program.

As the project went from thought to reality, Japan’s interest was roused to the point where the proposed celebration reached the ears of Masahiro Sasaki, the 71-year-old brother of Sadako. Understandably excited by the news, he has confirmed plans to make the JACCC sojourn, bringing with him one of the original origami cranes constructed by his sister before she succumbed. In addition, Sasaki’s son Yuji, an accomplished singer/songwriter, will perform a memorable original, “Inori,” an ode to Sadako and her thousand cranes. The song and tradition have become beacons for peace in Japan.

W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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