The story of the war in the Pacific is shared at the USS Arizona Memorial, where thousands of servicemen died during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Now, the story of reconciliation between Japan and the U.S. has been expanded to include the story of a remarkable young girl from Japan.
Sadako Sasaki was 12 when she died from leukemia, a disease she developed from the atomic bomb that was dropped on her hometown of Hiroshima 10 years earlier. Believing in a Japanese legend that folding a thousand paper cranes would heal the sick, the little girl folded more than 1,300 cranes before passing away in 1955. Since then, the origami crane has become an international symbol of peace.
One of her cranes is now part of the exhibit at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.
“In talking with my staff about the way that we present the tragic and inspirational stories of this site, a common theme coalesced in my mind that the enduring need to recognize peace be a part of this particular story,” said National Park Service Superintendent Paul DePrey.
Sadako's family has made it their mission to share the little girl's story in the hopes the tragedies of the past be replaced with world peace.
“Through this act, Sadako taught us one thing. The first step to achieve peace in our hearts is to have compassion, selflessness and thoughtfulness towards people around us,” said Masahiro Sasaki, Sadako’s older brother.
USS Arizona survivor Lauren Bruner, 92, welcomed the gift.
“Although both of us experienced the horrors of war, as did my fellow veterans, I have always believed that world peace is attainable and is the ultimate goal for all people. I believe if left up to ordinary people like Sadako and myself that war, as we know it, would never have taken place,” said Bruner.
This is the third of Sadako’s original cranes to be on display. One is at the tribute World Trade Center visitor center, next to ground zero in New York. The other is at the Austrian Study Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution.
The tiny crane is about the size of a thumbnail. Sadako used pins to fold the crane.
“She’s going through radiation disease and she’s still able to manipulate the paper. To fold that small of a crane so intricately, it’s amazing,” said Tyler Tokioka, Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii board chair.
The fundraising for the $50,000 exhibit was led by the Hiroshima Hawaii Sister State Committee, Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii and the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, while the Pacific Historic Parks helped to facilitate the project.