A couple of weeks ago we were asked at work to share something we enjoyed with the people we worked with as part of Adult Learning Week. I decided to do some Origami and talk a little bit about the cultural significance of the Japanese Crane.
While doing a bit of research to make sure I got my facts straight I learnt some amazing things that changed the way I thought about the symbolism behind the origami crane. I’ve always known that the Tsuru (crane) in Japanese mythology symbolises good fortune and long life because of it’s fabled life span of a thousand years, and that an old legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane.
But what I didn’t know was that after World War II the crane came to symbolize peace and the innocent victims of war thanks to a story about a schoolgirl Sadako Sasaki and her thousand cranes. Suffering from leukaemia as a result of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, knowing that she was dying she tried to make a thousand cranes before her death at the age of 12. After her death she became internationally recognised as a symbol of innocent victims of war. There is a monument to her near where the bomb dropped in Hiroshima which I saw when I was there in 1986 – but I had no idea of the symbolism. Near there is the peace flame which is a monument to the victims of the bomb which has burned continuously since 1964 and will continue to burn until all the nuclear bombs on the planet are destroyed and the world is free from the threat of nuclear annihilation.
The fictional story of Sadako Sasaki tells of how at the age of 12 after being diagnosed she spent her days in hospital folding the cranes so her wish to live would be granted. But she only made it to 644 cranes before she became too weak to fold any more, so her friends and family helped finish her dream by folding the rest of the cranes which were buried with her.
However… according to her surviving family members that’s not actually true. She managed to fold about 1400 cranes before she died and the family have donated some of her cranes to places of importance around the world including the 9-11 memorial in New York and Pearl Harbour in Hawaii.
After learning all of this I decided maybe I should make a thousand cranes and thanks to a photo of a huge bowl of cranes on a coffee table I saw in Google while researching the topic, I have started my quest.
However after folding only one, I think I’ll just make a bowl of origami. Anybody who knows me well, will know I’ve been folding origami birds forever and if you count up all the cranes I’ve ever made I don’t think it would even come close to 1,000.