Sunday, May 29, 2016

Obama's Cranes

Obama’s origami cranes he left behind touches many hearts

The Asahi Shimbun  May 29, 2016 

Two of the cranes presented by U.S. President Barack Obama at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima’s Naka Ward (Yuta Takahashi)

HIROSHIMA--On his historic visit to ground zero, U.S. President Barack Obama surprised and touched officials at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum on May 27 with origami paper cranes he apparently made himself.

The museum is preparing to display Obama's four origami cranes, hoping to embolden efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

The president said he folded them with help from others as his envoy showed off the origami cranes, made of traditional Japanese paper graced with flower motifs, including apricots or cherries, placed on a tray.

The unexpected gesture came after Obama showed great interest in the origami cranes folded by schoolgirl Sadako Sasaki, as Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida showed the president around the museum.

Sadako’s cranes are a symbolic exhibit at the museum illustrating the tragedy of the atomic bombing of this city on Aug. 6, 1945.

Sadako, the model for the statue of the Children’s Peace Monument at the park, experienced the nuclear blast at the age of 2.

Sadako Sasaki, who died of leukemia while in elementary school after being exposed to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. (Provided by Masahiro Sasaki)

She was later diagnosed with leukemia when she was in the sixth grade.

While on her sickbed, she folded more than 1,300 paper cranes out of medicine wrappers and other papers, pinning her hopes on a traditional Japanese saying that a wish will be granted if 1,000 cranes are made.

Despite her wish to overcome her disease, she died in 1955.

Her story came to be known as one of the symbols attesting to the horrors of nuclear weapons.
As the acrylic casing that houses some of Sadako’s cranes was removed for the president, Obama studied them up close and said he brought his own.

He gave two of his four cranes to two students who were allowed inside the museum to welcome him, the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima.

Obama left the other two on the guest book he signed with the message: “We have known the agony of war. Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace and pursue a world without nuclear weapons.”

The president later moved to a location in the park where he could view the A-Bomb Dome after laying a wreath of flowers to the monument for the victims and delivering a message. Kishida also referred to the monument modeled on Sadako.

All of Obama’s four cranes were subsequently donated to the museum.

“The president may have prepared the cranes after learning of Sadako’s story in the United States," said Kenji Shiga, the museum director. "We are going to exhibit his cranes as soon as we are ready.”

Tomiko Kawano, a 73-year-old atomic bomb survivor and Sadako’s classmate, said she was heartened by the presidential gesture.

“Sadako’s wish, shown in the statue of the girl spreading her arms toward the sky, has finally reached the U.S. president,” she said. “I am hoping that it will reach many others, as well.”

Sadako’s 74-year-old brother, Masahiro, said on May 28 he was deeply moved by the president taking an interest in his sister’s origami cranes.

“I took his gesture as his apology, strong determination to restore peace and warm, generous heart,” he said.

On May 28, there was a steady stream of visitors to lay origami cranes at the foot of the statue of the Children’s Peace Monument.

One was Ayaka Iwamoto, a first-year student at Hiroshima Jogakuin High School in the city, who visited the park to lay origami cranes she and her classmates received from a group of 20 elementary schoolchildren in Pennsylvania they have exchanges with. She learned of Obama’s cranes through news reports.

“I could see that President Obama is serious about his vision of a world without nuclear weapons,” said Iwamoto, 15.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima’s Naka Ward is crowded with students and other visitors on May 28, the day after U.S. President Barack Obama visited there. (Shinnosuke Ito)

(This article was compiled from reports by Gen Okamoto, Sonoko Miyazaki, Yoshikazu Hirai and Takafumi Yabuki.)

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