Sharing a message of peace

LIHUE — Masahiro Sasaki is impressed with the difference made by his younger sister, Sadako, a 12-year-old when she passed away in a hospital in Japan.

Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of stories by The Garden Island marking the 70th anniversary of the surrender of Japan on Aug. 15, 1945, and the end of World War II.

LIHUE — Masahiro Sasaki is impressed with the difference made by his younger sister, Sadako, a 12-year-old when she passed away in a hospital in Japan.

Sadako Sasaki was 2 years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on Aug. 6, 1945.

With the help of Rev. Toshiyuki Umitani of the Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii, Masahiro, Sadako’s older brother, and his son Yuji visited more than four dozen Kauai High School students in Chie Roessler’s Japanese language class Thursday during the students’ lunch break to share Sadako’s message of love and hope.

“This is great,” said Alton Miyamoto of the West Kauai Hongwanji. “The Sasakis want to work with the young people because they are the future.”

Masahiro described himself as the brother of a young girl who was responsible for making a difference with a small piece known by the Japanese as omoyari.

Masahiro said everyone has omoyari, a piece in one’s heart for love and kindness; the ability and willingness to feel what others are feeling without being told.

“We need to share omoyari with others,” Masahiro said. “If we only insist on our own way, conflicts arise.”

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.

The cranes became symbols of hope and perseverance.

Masahiro suggested to the students that people listen before speaking, and while listening, get a lot of information before deciding on what is the best course.

“We all have a good heart and mind,” Masahiro said. “We need to move to the good side of the mind. If we have a good mind, good people will gather around, and only you can change to be good.”

He said Sadako perished from the effects of the atomic bomb, but people should not carry the feeling of hatred.

When Sadako was hospitalized for 10 months, Masahiro said he never saw his sister cry, except once — when she said goodbye to her mother.

“She suffered from three types of pain,” Masahiro said. “There was the financial pain and the burden of hospitalization on the family. There was the physical pain of her illness, something she kept to herself, and there was the mental pain she coped with. I could not imagine how strong the heart of a 12-year-old can be. In spite of all of the hardships she endured, she demonstrated how to care for others — omoyari.”

Yuji, Sadako’s nephew, is a song writer and entertainer in Japan, treating the students, silent in awe, to a song he composed — Inari, or translated from Japanese, prayer — which presented a perspective from Sadako asking to “Say a prayer for harmony.” This followed a tour through the crowded classroom where he allowed each student a view of an actual tsuru, or paper crane, which was folded by his aunt Sadako while she was hospitalized.

Originally available only in Japanese, Yuji translated the song into English, presenting it to the Kauai students who could understand the Sadako Legacy — the continuing effort to spread Sadako’s message of peace.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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