On August 6, seventy years ago, the United States detonated atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended WWII. Without those bombs, the war with Japan would have dragged on and on. The Japanese would have fought for as long as they could hold out … for their country, for their family honor, for Bushido. It’s just the way they are.
I know. I’m half Japanese. In fact, my mother’s parents are from an area one hour outside of Hiroshima. Thus, the Hiroshima bombing brings WWII full circle for my mother. She was born in San Francisco and grew up in Japantown. During WWII, her family was forced to relocate to a remote part of Utah where the US tested nuclear weapons underground. Most of her family died of cancer.
A few years ago, we visited the Pearl Harbor memorial with my extended family. I folded origami cranes with my kids, my niece and my mother. My mother had been there years ago on behalf of her brother who was recognized for his bravery as part of the 442nd Regiment. My mother, sister and I also visited our relatives in Hiroshima in 1992 where we also saw the Peace Museum which, though full of people, was as silent as a tomb. The two museums; two ends of a bookcase.
With the money my mother received as reparations from the U.S. government for her forced relocation (and the sole survivor of her family), she bought herself a new car. It was a Japanese luxury car and she drove it for several decades until this year, at 91 years old, when she stopped driving altogether. She is a breast cancer survivor, so she decided to donate her car to a breast cancer charity.
My mother donated her Lexus to CarsforBreastCancer.org after she stopped driving.
While the war took a personal toll on my mother, she’s a very positive person and always looks on the bright side. With her pocketbook, I admire how she was able to make a quiet personal statement and turn something negative into something positive, full of hope and compassion. It’s a circle all over again.
Hiroshima Book List for Kids
The Peace Tree from Hiroshima: Little Bonsai with a Big Story by Sandra Moore, illustrated by Kazumi Wilds
Itaro, Wijiro, Somegoro, and Marusu — four generations of Yamaki men — took care of the special bonsai tree from Miyagima. When the atomic bomb exploded in Hiroshima, it was just two miles away from their home. The Yamaki family decides to gift their precious bonsai tree to the United States in a gesture of hope and peace. It resides today in the National Arboretum in Washington. Masaru’s grandson Akira visited it and thus the circle continues. A tree that inspires peace. [historical fiction picture book, ages 8 and up]
The Paper Crane by Molly Bang
Throughout Asia, the crane is a symbol of happiness and eternal youth. In Japan, the crane is one of the mystical or holy creatures (others include the dragon and the tortoise) and symbolizes good fortune and longevity because of its fabled life span of a thousand years. from Wikipedia
A kind man who owns a restaurant on a busy street prospers until a new road is built and no one uses the old one. The man becomes very poor and on many days, no one stops by at all. One day, a stranger comes and though he has no money, the kind man makes him a meal fit for a king. In return, the stranger shows him how to fold a crane from a paper napkin. This crane is special; when the kind man claps his hand, the bird comes to life and dances. New of this wondrous bird spreads and people flock to his restaurant again. In time, the stranger comes back. This time the stranger plays the flute that makes the bird dance like never before. When he finishes, he climbs on the back of the crane and they both fly away, never to be seen again. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr
Don’t you remember that old story about the crane?” Chiziko asks. “If a sick person folds one thousand paper cranes, the gods will grant her wish and make her healthy again.” She handed the crane to Sadako. “Here’s your first one.”
Sadako is based on a real little girl who lived in Japan from 1943 to 1955. She was in Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped. Ten years later she died from leukemia, a result of the radiation from the atomic bomb. Her courage inspired countless children in Japan and around the world. This is her story.
When she began to work with the paper, Sadako discovered that folding a crane wasn’t as easy as it looked.
Out of colored paper, cranes
come flying into
O flock of heavenly cranes
Cover my child with your wings.
Sadako Sasaki died on October 25, 1955. She had folded five hundred and forty-one cranes. Her classmates folded three hundred and fifty-six cranes so that one thousand were buried with Sadako. A Folded Crane Club was organized in her honor. Members still place thousands of paper cranes beneath Sadako’s statue on August 6, Peace Day. On the statue is a wish:
This is our cry,
this is our prayer;
peace in the world.
[chapter book, ages 8 and up]
One Thousand Paper Cranes: The Story of Sadako and the Children’s Peace Statue by Ishii Takayuki
A nonfiction companion book to Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, this tells the story of how Sadako’s peace statue came to be. Sadako had actually folded more than 1,500 paper cranes before dying at age 12. She was in 7th grade. Her classmates rallied and created a movement so broad in trying to raise money for a marker for Sakado that, in the end, they had raised an astounding $450,000! Her memorial statue stands today in Hiroshima at the Peace Memorial Park.
Image from Activity Village
Close up of Sadako’s Children’s Peace Statue. Image from Shiki Book.
A Thousand Cranes: Origami Projects for Peace and Happiness by
Now that you can fold origami cranes (I have a video below), here’s some ideas for what to do with them. This book includes forty-eight tear-out sheets of colorful chiyogami to get you started. [nonfiction craft book, ages 10 and up]
I searched for beautiful but inexpensive origami paper. Click on the image to view more closely. My son can each you how to make an Origami Shiruken Throwing Star if you need more origami projects. That’s what my leftover origami paper will be used for!
Origami Book Giveaways
I am giving away these two origami books (2 winners!). To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter below.
Origami Activities for Children by Chiyo Araki
The Great Origami Book by Zülal Aytüre-Scheele
How to Fold an Origami Crane
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p.s. Here are images from Japan’s 70th Anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings from CNN.