Peace Day cranes retired in fiery sendoff

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Rev. Kohtoku Hirao of the Waimea Shingon Mission adds a string of paper cranes to the burn pit Sunday during ceremonies sending off the cranes following a five-day Peace Day exhibit at the Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    A Taiko Kaua‘i ensemble performs a Peace Day tribute at the foot of the World Peace Kannon statue Sunday during ceremonies sending off the more than 3,000 paper cranes at the Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple volunteer Roy Miyashiro adds light to help Rev. Kohtoku Hirao of the Waimea Shingon Mission clean up following the ceremony sending off the more than 3,000 paper cranes of peace Sunday evening in Hanapepe.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Gerald Hirata of the Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple adds a batch of paper cranes to the burn pit Sunday while other spectators wait to add their share during the ceremony sending off the paper cranes following Peace Day.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Gerald Hirata of the Kaua‘i Soto Zen gets help in preparing to add a batch of paper cranes to the burn pit Sunday during ceremonies sending off the cranes following this year’s Peace Day.

HANAPEPE — Smoke from the burning paper cranes swirled and bathed the World Peace Kannon statue at the Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple in Hanapepe, fueled by trade winds blowing off the Kalaheo plateau and enhanced by the subdued thunder of taiko.

The send-off of the more than 3,000 paper cranes created by students in the Department of Education Westside Complex schools and other volunteers marked the end of the physical manifestation of the 2021 Peace Day that fell on Sept. 21 and was celebrated primarily through a virtual platform.

The in-person Peace Day celebration saw more than 3,000 paper cranes, each one representing hope based on the story of Sadako Sasaki who succumbed to cancer at the age of 12, decorate the World Peace Kannon statue for five days following Peace Day to allow people to decorate, commemorate, and celebrate peace following guidelines set forth by the COVID-19 rules for health and safety.

Burning is a respectful way of sending off the birds that represent wishes for peace from the hearts of those who created them, and is akin to the retirement of the American flag by burning, said Peace advocate and activist Jim Jung, who also serves as the chaplain for the American Legion, Post 54.

“We want to acknowledge all of the students and individuals who have written their wish for peace and folded a paper crane,” said Rev. Kohtoku Hirao of the Waimea Shingon Mission who officiated the ceremony that was introduced by the quiet thunder of taiko from Taiko Kaua‘i. “We hope their wishes and prayers will be answered. We also acknowledge each one of us in this world who want peace, harmony, and goodwill among all people.”

During the ceremony, Jung, who made the trip from Kapa‘a with Rev. Mieko Majima of the Kapa‘a Hongwanji Mission, told Sasaki’s story about the paper cranes and her recovery after surviving the atomic bomb in Hiroshima at the age of two years old.

“She was told that if she could make a thousand cranes, her wishes would come true,” Jung said. “She set out to fold cranes with whatever pieces of paper she could find, big pieces, little pieces, wrappers from medicines, just any kind of paper. But she never completed the thousand cranes because, at the age of 12, Sadako closed her eyes, forever.”

Jung said he met Sadako’s brother and vowed to tell her story, and fold at least a crane a day, promises that he’s kept.

Gerald Hirata of the Kaua‘i Soto Zen said the ceremony is also to acknowledge the people like Mahatma Gandhi who gave their lives in the name of peace, including local boy Spark M. Matsunaga who was born in Hanapepe and worked toward peace in Congress.

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

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