Japanese paper cranes have become a well-known symbol of the movement for a world without nuclear weapons. Every year thousands of students across the globe fold paper cranes to honour the children who died in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. You could take part in this tradition by sending your own paper cranes to a special peace memorial in Japan. Alternatively, you may wish to send paper cranes to your political leaders to show your support for a nuclear-weapon-free world.
- Read the story of Sadako (below), a victim of the Hiroshima atomic bombing.
- Find some square pieces of colour paper, or cut squares from rectangular paper.
- Fold paper cranes with your classmates – see if you can make 1,000 together!
- Send your paper cranes to Sadako’s peace memorial in Hiroshima to honour her memory.
Sadako Sasaki was two years old when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on her city, Hiroshima, in 1945. At the time of the explosion, she was at home with her mother. Despite being just 1km from the centre of the blast, she survived the immediate effects. However, 10 years later purple spots started to form on her legs as a result of radiation sickness from the bombing. She was diagnosed with leukaemia, a cancer of the blood. While in hospital, she learned that, according to Japanese legend, if she folded 1,000 paper cranes she would be granted a wish.
She started out folding dozens of cranes each day. When she ran out of paper, she used medicine wrappings and whatever else she could find. But then her condition worsened and she could only manage to fold one or two a day. Sadly, she died before reaching her target of 1,000 cranes. Her friends folded the remainder after her death. Sadako now symbolizes the impact of nuclear weapons on children. A memorial has been built in Hiroshima to honour her and all other child victims of the nuclear bombings. Her story continues to inspire thousands of people to work for the abolition of nuclear weapons.