Sadako Sasaki

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Statue in memory of Sadako Sasaki

Sadako Sasaki (佐々木 禎子 Sasaki Sadako?, January 7, 1943October 25, 1955) was a Japanese girl who lived near Misasa Bridge in Hiroshima, Japan when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Sadako was only two years old on August 6, 1945 when she became a victim of the atomic bomb.

At the time of the explosion Sadako was at home, about 1 mile from ground zero. By November 1954, lumps had developed on her neck and behind her ears. Then in January 1955, purple spots had started to form on her legs. Subsequently, she was diagnosed with leukemia, which her mother referred to as "an atom bomb disease."[1] She was hospitalized on February 21, 1955 and given, at the most, a year to live.


[edit] Sadako and the paper cranes

On August 3, 1955, Chizuko Hamamoto — Sadako's best friend — came to the hospital to visit and cut a golden piece of paper into a square and folded it into a paper crane. At first Sadako didn't understand why Chizuko was doing this but then Chizuko retold the story about the paper cranes. Inspired by the crane, she started folding them herself, spurred on by the Japanese saying that one who folded 1,000 cranes was granted a wish. A popular version of the story is that she fell short of her goal of folding 1,000 cranes, having folded only 644 before her death, and that her friends completed the 1,000 and buried them all with her. This comes from the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. An exhibit which appeared in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum stated that by the end of August, 1955, Sadako had achieved her goal and continued to fold more cranes.

Though she had plenty of free time during her days in the hospital to fold the cranes, she lacked paper. She would use medicine wrappings and whatever else she could scrounge up. This included going to other patients' rooms to ask to use the paper from their get-well presents. Chizuko would bring paper from school for Sadako to use.

During her time in hospital her condition progressively worsened. Around mid-October her left leg became swollen and turned purple. After her family urged her to eat something, Sadako requested tea on rice and remarked "It's good." Those were her last words. With her family around her, Sadako died on the morning of October 25, 1955.

[edit] Memorial

After her death, Sadako's friends and schoolmates published a collection of letters in order to raise funds to build a memorial to her and all of the children who had died from the effects of the atomic bomb. In 1958, a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane was unveiled in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, also called the Genbaku Dome. At the foot of the statue is a plaque that reads, This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world.

There is also a statue of her in the Seattle Peace Park. Sadako has become a leading symbol of the impact of a nuclear war. Sadako is also a heroine for many girls in Japan. Her story is told in some Japanese schools on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. Dedicated to her, people all over Japan celebrate August 6 as the annual peace day.

[edit] The story of Sadako in popular culture

Sadako's story has become familiar to many schoolchildren around the world through the novels The Day of the Bomb (1961, in German, Sadako will leben) by the Austrian writer Karl Bruckner and Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr, first published in 1977. Sadako is also briefly mentioned in Children of the Ashes, Robert Jungk's historical account of the lives of Hiroshima victims and survivors. Her story continues to inspire millions to hope for lasting peace in the world.

In 1969, the Dagestani national poet Rasul Gamzatov may have been inspired by Sadako's story to write his most famous poem, "Zhuravli". (Gamzatov may, however, have taken his inspiration from Soviet soldiers who died in the battle for Stalingrad. Associating cranes with World War II victims already appears, for example, in 1957 Soviet movie Letyat Zhuravli.) The jazz fusion band Hiroshima wrote a song called "Thousand Cranes" inspired by Sadako's story and as a tribute to the band's namesake city. Toward the end of the song, children's laughter can be heard. Another song inspired by Sadako's story is Fred Small's "Cranes Over Hiroshima". Japanese instrumental band Mono also created a song inspired by Sadako's story titled, "A Thousand Paper Cranes."

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