By Jason ’14 and Jackie ’14
On Aug. 6, 1945, when the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan, Sadako Sasaki was a 2-year-old who lived one mile from ground zero. While she survived the initial bombing, 10 years later, Sadako began experiencing the unmistakable symptoms of radiation poisoning. Hospitalized for treatment, the young girl threw herself into the task of folding paper cranes, believing that if she completed 1,000, she would regain her health. Sadako passed away in 1955, however, her story has inspired a legacy of peace that continues to resonate across the world.
The story of Sadako’s 1,000 cranes took center stage recently at Punahou, as 150 students from Japanese IV and V language classes welcomed Yuji Sasaki, a nephew of Sadako, to campus to share his family’s message. Sasaki is a well-known singer and songwriter in the Japanese pop music industry, and travels the world to promote peace. In the wake of Sadako’s death, the Sasaki family began donating her folded cranes to organizations around the world. This year, the family decided to donate one of the last cranes to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, the site of the 1941 bombing by Japan that plunged the United States into World War II.
The Sadako Forum on Sept. 14, 2012, at Luke Lecture Hall in Wo International Center, coordinated by Japanese language instructor Hiromi Peterson, included presentations by 2012 Hiroshima Peace Scholars Eryn Nakashima ’13 and Lynn Takeshita ’13. Speaking in Japanese, Sasaki highlighted Sadako’s story and displayed the crane that would be given to Arizona Memorial. He ended by leading the audience in a rousing singalong of his hit song, “Inori” (prayer).
“The Sadako Forum impacted me with the message of peace,” said Jaimie ’14. “I think that giving the crane to Pearl Harbor will build Japan’s and America’s relationship with one another, by forgiving each other for the mistakes we have made.”