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’s father, Shigeo, told her the legend of the cranes and she set herself a goal of folding 1,000 of them, which was believed to grant the folder a wish. Sadako began folding paper cranes out of medicine wrappers as she prayed to recover from her fatal disease. She folded over 1,000 paper cranes before she died and was buried with them in 1955 at 12 years old. 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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