By Thomas O Kelley
All over the world birds have been viewed as special animals, perhaps because of their ability to fly. Similarly, birds have held meanings for humans quite unrelated to flight. In Japan, the bird with symbolic value beyond all others is the red-crowned crane, or Japanese crane, called “tsuru.” The tsuru is considered a national treasure, both in its living physical form and as an artistic symbol of good fortune and longevity. Hundreds of years ago, the crane became one of Japan’s best loved and known crafts: paper folding, or “origami.” To fold paper into the crane shape is known as “ori tsuru.”
Ten years after the end of World War II, a child survivor, Sadako Sawaki, became ill and was diagnosed as suffering from leukemia due to her exposure to radiation after the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima. In accordance with Japanese legend, Sadako began folding paper cranes hoping that if she reached 1,000, a wish would be granted. Like all children, Sadako wanted to be able to run and play again with her friends. No matter how weak she felt she persevered with her folding, but alas died before reaching her goal of 1,000 paper cranes. News of Sadako’s brave effort spread amongst Japanese school children. Eventually money was raised for a statue in Hiroshima Peace Park of Sadako holding a crane.
In Japan, the tsuru and paper crane have taken on the additional symbolic meaning of peace. Here at BCC this past week, the UNICEF Club held paper crane lessons for those who would like to learn this beautiful craft and who wish for universal peace. Students and the eastside community also have the opportunity to hear from a Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor. In the BCC Student Union Building at 6:30 p.m. on October 7, and at 11:30 a.m. on October 8, Hideko Tamura Snider will speak on “The Consequences of Nuclear Use and the Role of Hope.”