The Story of Sadako

The story of Sadako, the little girl who was affected by leukemia following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, has spread around the world. But the story is more than a true fairytale about a single girl – it describes the truth about many, many survivors both in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and in many other places of the world where nuclear weapons have been tested and dispersed radioactive fallout.

A number of studies show that different types of cancer are significantly more common among survivors of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, compared to other

origamiIt  is also clear that the risk of leukemia and thyroid cancer increase with an increased dose of radiation, and that especially women exposed at a young age are at risk of falling ill.

Sadako Sasaki was two years old when the atom bomb fell over Hiroshima, her home city, and her grandmother was one of the first victims. Sadako herself was 2 km away from the site of explosion. All around her, adults and children were ripped out of existence – 80,000-140,000 of them – but she survived without any burns or other visible damage.

Nine years later, at the age of eleven, Sadako was chosen to run for her school in the annual stafette. She was overjoyed and proud, and when the day came, she brought her team to victory. Sadako heard little of the cheers then, for a great dizziness had come over her, but she told no-one about it.

The attacks of dizziness continued to plague Sadako and one day, she collapsed in the school yard. She had fallen ill from the atom bomb disease – leaukaemia – and was confined to hospital. One day, her best friend Chizuku visited her, bringing a golden paper. From this paper, she folded a lovely crane while she told the legend about the sacred white crane: ”They say that it lives for a thousand years. If somebody who is ill folds a thousand paper cranes, she will be cured.”

Sadako immediately started folding cranes. Everybody who came to visit her brought paper for the cranes. The hope for survival never left Sadako, but she would only live to complete the 644th crane. Sadako died at the age of twelve. Before the funeral, her classmates folded another 356 cranes and Sadako was laid into her grave accompanied by a thousand paper cranes.

The classmates were shaken by Sadako’s death and told other children the tale of Sadako and the cranes. They managed to raise money from pupils in 3,100 Japanese schools and from school children in nine other countries, and with that money they erected a monument to Sadako. In May 1958, the Children’s Peace Monument was finished, in the Peace Park of Hiroshima.

On the top of a paradise mountain, Sadako stands, in her outstretched hands a golden crane that she presents to the sky. Below the monument you can read this poem:

This is our call,
this is our prayer;
peace on earth.

In 1985, pupils at the International School in Hiroshima founded the ”Thousand Crane Club.” This club encourages school classes or other groups of children to fold a thousand cranes while they speak of Sadako and discuss questions of war and peace. When the cranes are sent to Hiroshima, they will decorate the Peace Monument.

The children who send the cranes receive a member certificate from the club headquarters in Hiroshima. This certificate is decorated with the very words that can be read underneath Sadako’s statue.

The address of the “Thousand Crane Club”:

1000 Crane Club
Hiroshima International School
3-49-1 Kurakake
Hiroshima 739-1743

Thousand Paper Cranes

Last update: January 19, 2015