Paper Cranes: Past, Present, Worldwide

History of Paper Cranes

Cranes have stood for or have been a symbolic sign of peace ever since the famous story of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who was affected from the Hiroshima bombing in the 1950’s. Years after the atomic bomb was dropped, Sasaki started to develop swellings and bruises all around the sides of her neck and around the back of her ears. Later to find out she was diagnosed with lymph gland leukemia. When she was hospitalized, she met a girl from her school who told her a story a about a Japanese folktale which promised one wish if that person were to fold one thousand paper cranes. So Sasaki set out to do it, having made about six hundred and forty four of them until she fell short in the process as she passed at the age of twelve years old.

How did this story inspire the Nikkei Student Union to create the piece in the SRB? What happened to UCSB/ the community to cause them to construct it? 

On May 23rd of 2014, a man named Elliot Rodger went on a violent massacre, killing six of our very own UCSB students while leaving fourteen terribly injured. Spontaneous memorial sites, ocean paddle outs, big stadium commemorations and a lot more were done to honor the lives of those who passed in that horrific moment in time. Even still, three years later, there are many dedicated spots on and off campus just for these innocent lives and it’s a beautiful thing to see. Today, hanging from the third floor bridge of the Student Resource Building, holds a multicolored one thousand paper crane piece that Sadako Sasaki sadly couldn’t finish.  It consists of strands of brightly colored paper cranes along with six blue sequences in remembrance of each passing from the tragedy.

The instillation carries a lot of light which renders it as a peace/ solidarity or uniting memorial structure. Like the American Flag bringing people together at national sports events or historical figure funerals, the paper crane structure unifies all of UCSB and the community by spreading love and peace; allowing all of us to move past the losses and remember those students for who they were and not by how they were lost. In the Bottom Line News article, “Nikkei Student Union Fold Cranes in Remembrance,” Yao Yang says, “Through this event, she aims to show that the UCSB community is unified and there for each other in a time like this.” Yoshihara, the woman who organized the event, envisioned a piece that would deliver that sense of community. Nothing but a sense of oneness for Isla Vista and UCSB was the aim for this project and it did just that.

How have cranes acted as a sign of peace worldwide? 

With pride, Masahiro Sasaki (brother of Sadako Sasaki) has honored his sister through his foundation called the NPO Sadako Legacy. Through this organization, he carries on the beautiful essence his sister withheld by donating the paper cranes Sadako finished to places of relieving or places that were in need of alleviation. In “How Paper Cranes Became a Symbol of Healing in Japan,” Ari Beser describes the foundation’s goals: “In addition to the September 11 memorial, Sadako Legacy has donated a crane to Pearl Harbor’s USS Arizona Memorial with the help of Daniel, The Peace Library at the Austrian Study Center for Peace, and the city of Okinawa.” Masahiro delivers paper cranes to places that were linked to tragic moments from the past as a peace relieving gift. It’s his foundation’s purpose to try to move passed painful memories and to strive for hope across all nations of the world. Sasaki sought the importance of establishing oneness and the cranes were the start of creating that effect. Hiroshima itself was inspired by Sadako’s tale of the one thousand cranes that they built a structure in it’s national park to spread the same message her brother was spreading. In the article, “The Girl Who Transformed The Paper Crane Into The Symbol for Peace and Hope,” Michael Rose says, “In 1958, the statue of Sadako holding a golden crane was erected in Hiroshima’s Peace Park. A plaque on the statue reads: “This is our cry, this is our prayer, peace in the world.”” After the bombing, the country needed a place for solidarity and harmony to try to gain hope; to move together as one and try to move their minds beyond that horrific memory.

It’s not just the NPO Sadako Legacy or Hiroshima itself who are striving for peace on earth by using cranes as it’s mark, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology host paper crane projects in honor of International Peace Day. According to their Penn Museum website, “Joining Peace Day Philly in honor of the United Nations 2016 International Day of Peace (officially September 21), the Penn Museum invites guests of all ages to create origami paper cranes—a symbol of peace—at an afternoon craft table.” The museum could have used any other form or “symbol of peace” for their usage, but instead utilized the crane because they understood the effect the cranes hold. The Penn Museum referred it with no question and didn’t even provide a background story, so the guests could understand the meaning of the paper cranes to the UN holiday because they believed the meaning was already there and didn’t have to be unfolded. The strengthening of harmony with the powerful message these cranes possess were also seen in other states of the US. In the “Santa Maria Times,” the author writes, “It is that peace which was made tangible to us in the form 1,000 cranes sent to us from Chardon, Ohio, a community touched by violence, that in turn had received 1,000 cranes from Sheboygan, Wisconsin. They sent along along a thousand cranes of peace to old South Church in Boston after the marathon bombing April 15, 2013.” These cranes offer a gentle light. They serve as a gift to try to forget all the despair that once took place in Ohio or in Boston or where ever and try to spread love for the new generation, and the next so chaos never erupts.