I credit my Japanese ancestry for getting me involved with paper folding at an early age. Many hours of my childhood were spent turning sheets of paper into animals, toys and folded gum wrapper chains. As an adult, I was reintroduced to origami in 1983 when I joined a group of folders and made a mobile of 1,000 cranes. This was made in commemoration of Sadako Sasaki (see below) and as a symbol of peace. In 1984, I started selling and teaching origami and spreading Sadako’s story to people at craft fairs, farmer’s markets, craft galleries and gift shops around the country. The Japanese people have a great reverence for paper, and over the years I have discovered a beauty and strength in washi paper, as it supports me throughout my life.
The crane has long been a symbol of happiness and good omen for the Japanese. A person who folds 1,000 cranes before he/she weds will have a happy marriage. The crane has also been a symbol of long life, as Japanese mythology believed the crane to live for 1,000 years. They are also a symbol of fidelity as the crane mates for life and are devoted mates in all seasons. Both the male and female crane tend their young. The crane has also become a symbol of peace.
In 1955 a twelve-year old girl died of leukemia which she contracted after the U.S. dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. During her illness, Sadako was visited by her best friend Chizuko, who reminded Sadako of the old Japanese story that the crane lives for a thousand years, and that the person who folds 1,000 paper cranes will have a wish granted. Chizuko folded a gold crane and gave it to Sadako as a gift of hope for her friend. Sadako began folding paper cranes out of her medicine wrappers, as she prayed to recover from her fatal disease. She folded 644 cranes before she died. In honor of her memory, Sadako’s classmates folded 356 more cranes so that she could be buried with one thousand paper cranes. Money was collected from all over Japan to erect a monument to Sadako in Hiroshima’s peace park.
The inscription on its base reads:
This is our cry,
This is our prayer,
Peace in the world
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