Sadako Sasaki was 2 years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on Aug. 6, 1945 — 70 years ago today.
After being rescued by her mother, both Sasaki and her mother were caught in the black rain, or fallout from the bomb.
At age 11, Sadako started developing swellings on her body and was eventually diagnosed with acute malignant lymph gland leukemia, which was described by her mother as “an atom bomb disease.”
Hospitalized, Sadako started folding paper cranes after learning from her hospital roommate that a wish would be granted if she succeeded in folding the cranes.
She begged paper from other hospital patients, visitors, and wherever she could to accomplish the task resulting in a rainbow of cranes of different sizes and colors. Her condition worsening, Sadako had problems sleeping from the pain, and on Oct. 25, requested tea and rice at her family’s urging to keep up her strength.
“It’s tasty,” she said, closing her eyes for the final time and going to sleep.
Sadako’s friends and schoolmates banded together to publish a collection of letters to raise funds for a memorial to her and all of the children who died from the effects of the atomic bomb. In 1958, a statue of Sadako and a golden crane was unveiled in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
Sadako’s brother, Masahiro Sasaki, and nephew, Yuji Sasaki, created Sadako Legend, a nonprofit organization in Japan to continue Sadako’s message of peace.
Masahiro, Yuji, and their wives Yaeko and Megumi, visited Hawaii in September 2013 to dedicate one of the few remaining cranes folded by Sadako to the World War II Valor in the Pacific Museum, more commonly known as the Pearl Harbor Museum. The Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii, the Hiroshima Sister City Committee in Honolulu, and the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii combined to raise $70,000 for the design and installation of the display at the museum.
During that trip, the families participated in the Honokaa Peace Parade on the Big Island, but due to time constraints were unable to visit Maui or Kauai.
Coinciding with the celebration of peace Thursday in Japan, the Sasaki family will return to Hawaii with the help of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii for an encore performance of the musical, “Peace on Your Wings,” which was inspired by Sadako’s story.
The performance will take place Saturday and Sunday in Honolulu. The Sasaki family will also participate in activities related to the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the end of World War II.
The Sasaki family will visit Kauai Aug. 13. The Kauai Hongwanji Council invites its members and supporters to a presentation by Masahiro Sasaki from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Lihue Hongwanji Mission.
“We are hoping that the Sasaki family will bring, for show and tell, one of the last remaining cranes folded by Sadako herself,” said Alton Miyamoto of the Lihue Hongwanji Mission. “Masahiro will do his presentation in Japanese with translation provided by Rev. Toshiyuki Umitani of the Honpa Hongwanji, and Yuji will sing one or two songs he composed for his aunt Sadako. There will also be a short time for questions and answers.”