15. 12/8/13: Sadako's Memorial
"Tsuru wa sennen. Kame wa mannen."
A crane lives for a thousand years. A turtle lives for ten thousand years. This is a famous Japanese proverb.
Sadako must have heard it too. I grew up reading Sadako and the Thousand Cranes, a children's book, perhaps when I was eight.
It was the first time I heard about the implications of the automic bomb. Sadako was just two when the bomb hit. She exhibited no outward scars from the bomb, and yet it would later claim her life.
She was twelve, and running a relay when she collapsed. She developed swellings on her neck and behind her ears, and purple spots on her legs, signs of leukemia. She was hospitalized, and began folding paper cranes to pass time. There is an old story that says that the gods will grant a wish to anyone who folds a thousand paper cranes. Sadako's wish was to live.
But on October 25, 1955, she died, succumbing to leukemia.
There is a special statue dedicated to her in Peace Park.
All around it are cases filled with paper cranes in designs of words and pictures, strung up and threaded. Thousands and thousands of paper cranes.
At first they were attatched to the memorial by the bell's rope, but there were so many that the rope was impossible to use to ring the memorial bell. So they moved the cranes to benches surrounding the memorial. Sadly, a student burned all the paper cranes on the benches. Now they stay protected behind glass cases, a caged image of peace. The museum receives hundreds of thousands of cranes from people around the world. They recycle them and sell the paper creations to help fund the musuem.
In the end, Sadako's wish did come true. Her story and name remain alive this day as a symbol of the atomic bomb and Hiroshima.