Senbazuru - A tale of thousand Cranes.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


‘This is our cry, this is our prayer, peace in the world’ 

 

The ‘little boy’, its impact, its destruction, its sonification, its footprints, its repercussions, left the land of the rising sun, turned into ashes and with its people’s life & hopes deeply buried in it. This eventually led to the end of nearly 6 long years of a saga of vengeance and dismantling of land & lives, when Japan surrendered to the allied force of the US on 2nd of September 1945. The World War II is not a name that one is not familiar with, but the untold stories of few innocent victims, whose lives though perished in the dark clouds of the war, their pure-untethered intent to leave the world a better place, and hence the legacy they have left behind, resounds hope and purpose to humankind. This is the story of Sadako Sasaki, who folded a thousand cranes and unfolded the virtue of peace.  

 

The deadliest conflict in human history that marked a total 75-85 million fatalities and millions of other premeditated deaths due to starvation, massacre and other diseases, started with Germany invading Poland on September 1 of 1939. Soon within a couple of days time, the United Kingdom, forming an alliance with France declared war on Germany. By the beginning of 1941, through certain treaties and agreement, Germany had a clutch & control on most of Europe, under that control, it formed an alliance with Italy and Japan, and together they were the Axis Power. US entered the warfare with a surprise invasion on their Naval base at Pearl Harbour in the territory of Hawaii by Japan on a December morning of 1941. Soon the allied forces were formed with the US, Soviet Union, the two nations that would emerge to be the superpowers at the end of the war. The UK and Republic of China were also part of the allied force. With Germany’s series of setbacks, with defeats at battle of Stalingrad, invasions at Sicily, Italy, German-occupied France, including the last major attacks of the European theatre of World War II, the Battle of Berlin or famously known as, The Fall of Berlin, saw the downfall the German province. While the Battle of Berlin was a landmark for Soviet, as they regained their lost territory, the world saw the end of Adolf Hitler on 30 April 1945, as he shot himself, although there are various speculations of how he killed himself.  

Though the war had ended on the European grounds, the war continued on the Pacific belt, with Japan still participating almost as a single entity of the Axis Force. On July 26, 1945, the US called in Japan to discuss Proclamation defining terms for Japanese Surrender or famously known as the Potsdam Declaration. The Memo contained certain terms to which Japan had to agree on and surrender all of its armed forces. To this, the then PM of Japan, Kantaro Suzuki responded by claiming there was no crucial value for such a declaration and suggested that the only alternative for them was to be determined to continue their fight to the end. ‘We simply mokusatsu suru’, (told by Suzuki, which translates to We simply kill with silence). This was translated by the US as ‘rejection by ignoring’. The US had warned that what was offered by them was an ultimatum, stating “We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives. We shall brook no delay” and if Japan would fail to surrender, it would face sheer destruction. With Japan’s denial to surrender, the US dropped the first nuclear bomb, code named, the ‘little boy’, on Hiroshima on 6 August, 1945. It contained 64 kgs of uranium, with less than 1 kg of it undergoing fission, causing a damage that would eventually bring Japan to their knees.

Nearly a mile away from ground zero (point where bomb is dropped), a mother witnessed her 2 year old child blown out of the window due to the impact of the little boy. When she ran out to fetch her child, contrary to her suspect, the child was still alive and there were no severe injuries. This 2 year kid was Sadako Sasaki. The family, in absence of their father, who happened to be not in town at the time, fled from Hiroshima. The family had to recover from the loss and rebuild their financial problems, before they returned to Hiroshima, along with Sasaki’s father. Sasaki was a bright happy kid, who ran really fast and even led her school relay team to victories many times. Once in January 1955, when she was in seventh grade, Sasaki felt tired and dizzy after a relay match. She assumed the fatigue was because of running relentlessly, but soon she developed swelling on her neck and behind her ears. When consulted with the local doctor, she was asked to be hospitalised as she was diagnosed with leukaemia, which in modern age is called blood cancer. This left the family including Sasaki in shock. 

People in Hiroshima referred to it as ‘atomic bomb disease’. It was suspected that, 10 years ago, when Sasaki with her mother fled from Hiroshima, they were caught in black rain, which is referred to as radioactive dust which would have accumulated in the upper atmosphere and fell out after 30-40 minutes of the atomic blast. This is the same reason why no human is allowed back in Chernobyl for the next 3000 years at least (although different sources mention different periods). 

Sasaki became one of the most widely known Hibakusha (a bomb-affected person). She wanted to go back to school and resume her routine life, but the doctors had given a year to live, due to exposure to radiation 10 years ago. One day when her best friend, Chizuko Hamamoto, came to visit Sasaki at the hospital, she brought an origami with her. This origami was of a Crane and Sasaki’s father explained to her in detail what it symbolises. In Japanese culture, Cranes along with Dragons and tortoises are considered to be mystical creatures. Cranes in particular are a symbol of peace and are said to live for 1000 years. ‘Senbazuru’ (means 1000 Cranes) is a group of 1000 Cranes made from papers, held together by a single string. The Japanese legend says, one who folds 1000 Crane origami (one for each year), will be granted a wish by the gods, leading to eternal bliss. Sasaki started folding papers and making cranes, making up for her free time in the Hospital. When she ran out of papers, she used medicine wrappings, get-well cards, and basically anything she could fold to make Crane origami. Slowly in those folds, she unfolded what she really wanted, all she wanted was the world to be a better place with peace in it and she used to ask the same to her parents of how can she make the world a better place while she was alive. Her health condition worsened, and on 25 October, 1955, she requested for some tea and rice. She found it tasty and thanked her family and friends. Those were her last words, as she rested in peace.

To honour Sasaki’s spirit, her classmates created a paper crane club and this story spread through many schools of the country and even overseas, and 3 years later enough money was collected to build a monument in her honour. On May 5, 1958, the monument was inaugurated and was named Children's Peace Monument, and is located at the centre of Hiroshima Peace Park, close to the spot where the atomic bomb was dropped. Many other monuments of Sadako Sasaki can be seen all over the world, few of which are in Manhattan, Washington, Paris. In 2012, Sadako legacy foundation of Japan, donated one of the cranes to the National park service. It is featured in an exhibit at USS Arizona national memorial at pearl harbour in Hawaii. One might argue that the person is gone, so why the glory. But the glory is rendered to recall and remember history. The lessons it holds for Humankind. Bryon Stevenson, an American lawyer and social justice activist, mentions that in one of his talks that he was giving in Germany, he speaks about death penalty system in US with all its details and biases, mainly based on race. At the end of the talk, one of the audience stands up and tells that it was deeply disturbing and agonising to hear about what Bryan was talking about. The audience member further continues to tell that they don’t have capital punishment in Germany (since 1949 for West Germany and 1987 for East Germany) and they can never engage in a systematic killing of human beings, as it would be unconscionable of them, given their history and lessons of the Holocaust. 

With similar spirit, Annual Peace day is observed in Japan on August 6th. Different sources cite differently on whether Sasaki actually completed 1000 Origami Cranes, irrespective to that, 1000 Cranes and its symbol for peace is the embodiment of Sadako Sasaki in the current age. Even today, every year, people gather on Obon day (its a holiday in Japan to remember the departed ones), at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and offer Senbezuru - A thousand Cranes held by a string, to the Children’s Peace Monument, which is a grand statue of Sadako Sasaki lifting a golden Crane over her head. Below the statue, holds the lesson which reads, 

 

‘This is our cry, this is our prayer, peace in the world’ 

 

 

 

 

References : Wiki, Mazoor National historic site, Japan Times, Erasmus Project. 

 

 


Submitted: October 18, 2020

© Copyright 2020 maheshaudupa. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Serge Wlodarski

Reminded me of the ginkgo trees that survived the blast. Good article.

Mon, October 19th, 2020 10:59am

Author
Reply

Oh yes! So much to learn! So much to remember! Thank you for your kind words.

Mon, October 19th, 2020 12:44pm

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