March 05, 2019 4 min read

Aloha Visitors to Pearl Harbor,

Every 2nd Saturday of the month (when school is in session) from 8 AM - 12 PM, volunteer students and teachers from Oahu's Punahou School generously donate their time to Pearl Harbor's visitors. They share the story of Sadako Sasaki, who was diagnosed with leukemia at the young age of 11.

The atom bomb dropped when she was 2. But she did not give up hope to live.

If you have the chance to visit Pearl Harbor on one of these Saturdays, I highly recommend this free and educational activity for all ages:

  • Learn how to fold an origami crane
  • Receive a folded crane with a handwritten message of peace from Japan
  • Hear the emotional story of Sadako Sasaki and her determination to fold 1,000 origami cranes to live for a 1,000 years.

It's a really great way to learn more about the long-lasting effects of war, healing and peace. Families will have a great time (especially kids!) and the bookstore next door has some beautiful Sadako souvenirs that will support the park.

Pacific Historic Parks is a 501(c)(3) Non-profit Organization for the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. The best way to support us directly is to:

Read below for more on Sadako Sasaki and the Sadako Peace Crane Project.

 Student demonstrating how to fold a paper crane to a Pearl Harbor visitor.

Spreading the Message of Peace on Wings to the World

By Edean Saito

Sadako Sasaki was a 2-year-old when the atomic bomb was dropped near her home by Misasa Bridge in Hiroshima, Japan on Aug. 6, 1945 in an attempt to end World War II. Her home was about a mile away from ground zero. Ten years later, on Oct. 25, 1955, at the age of 12, she died as a result of radiation from the bomb.

At the age of 11, Sadako was diagnosed with leukemia, the "atom bomb disease," and was admitted to the Red Cross Hospital. Her first visitor and best friend, Chizuko Hamamoto, cut a piece of gold paper into a large square and folded it into a beautiful crane. Chizuko relayed the old story: "It's supposed to live for a 1,000 years. If a sick person folds one thousand paper cranes, the gods will grant her wish and make her healthy again." She handed the crane to Sadako. "Here's your first one."

Sadako kept folding even though she was in great pain. Not long afterwards, Sadako went to sleep peacefully, never to wake up again. She had folded a total of 644 paper cranes. Exactly 356 were folded by Sadako's classmates in her honor. Saddened by the loss of their close friend, they decided to form a paper crane club to honor her. Word spread quickly. Students from 3,100 schools and from nine foreign countries gave money to the cause. On May 5, 1958, almost three years after Sadako died, enough money was collected to build a monument in her honor. It is now known as the Children's Peace Monument and is located in the center of Hiroshima Peace Park, close to the spot where the atomic bomb was dropped.

In 2012, the Sasaki family graciously donated one of the last paper cranes folded by Sadako before her death. It is on display in the museum at World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. In his remarks at the unveiling of the exhibit, Masahiro Sasaki, elder brother of Sadako, shared with us, "Sadako kept folding paper cranes even when she was approaching the end of her life. It was as if she was using up all the strength that sustained the rest of her life. 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 the people around us.

"Her paper cranes have become a symbol of wishes for peace and spread to the world, and her spirit continues to live on in everyone. We are certain that if we can share the spirit of compassion, omoiyari, with everyone else, we can pave the path to a more peaceful world."

Several teachers from Punahou School in Honolulu continue to share the story of Sadako's strength and spirit of compassion along with their students at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. One Saturday a month, students teach visitors how to fold a paper crane while relaying the story of Sadako.

During the summer of 2015, visiting teachers and professors from Japan accompanied a group from Punahou, observing the high school students interacting with our visitors. Afterwards, they wished to expand the Sadako Peace Crane Project to schools in Japan.

The Sadako Peace Crane Project has students in Japan write a message of peace on a piece of paper that they will eventually fold into a paper crane. They all have wonderful words promoting world peace and reconciliation:

  • "Past is the past. Let's think about our future! Pray for peace."
  • "I think it's difficult to understand each other. But, we must try to understand each other. Let's work hard and do our best!"

We've since received almost 40,000 of these very special cranes and in turn share them with our visitors at Pearl Harbor.

One teacher from Tokyo wrote, "Today, students in Japan are learning about what happened in World War II in their social studies class but didn't know what people in the U.S. have thought about it. We are very happy this project will promote reconciliation of two countries and spread peace around the world."

Read this article and other Pacific Historic Parks publications in online magazine format.

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Free activity at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii. Folding cranes of peace.


Amy Fujimoto
Amy Fujimoto

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