Sadako and the Thousand Cranes

The story of Sadako, the girl who suffered from leukemia after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, has spread around the world. But the story is about more than just a girl – it describes the truth of many survivors in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and in many other places in the world where nuclear weapons have been tested and radioactive fallout spread.

Sadako Sasaki was two years old when the atomic bomb fell on her hometown of Hiroshima, Japan. She was two kilometers from where the bomb hit. Unlike the nearly 140,000 people who died and even more were injured by the atomic bomb, Sadako escaped with no visible injuries.

The symptoms are starting to show

When Sadako was 11 years old, she was selected to run for her school in the annual relay race. She was excited and proud, and when the day came, she led her team to victory. However, Sadako didn’t hear much of the shouting that time because she had suffered from severe dizziness, something she didn’t tell anyone.

Sadako continued to suffer from dizzy spells and one day she collapsed in the school yard. She was suffering from the atomic bomb disease leukemia and was hospitalized.

A thousand cranes

One day her friend Chizuku came to the hospital with a paper of gold. From the paper she folded a crane and at the same time she told the legend about the sacred white crane: “It is said that it lives for a thousand years. If the sick person folds a thousand paper cranes, she will get well.”

Sadako immediately started folding cranes and everyone who visited her brought paper for cranes. Sadako never gave up hope for survival, but she only made it to crane 644 before she died. She was only 12 years old. Her classmates folded the rest of the 356 cranes for the funeral and Sadako took the thousand cranes with her to the grave.

The classmates were shaken by Sadako’s death and told other children about Sadako and the cranes. They managed to raise money from students in 3,100 Japanese schools and from school children in nine other countries for a monument, dedicated to Sadako.

In May 1958, the Children’s Peace Monument was completed in the Peace Park in Hiroshima. On the top of a paradise mountain stands Sadako, and with outstretched hands she lifts a golden crane towards the sky.

Below the monument you can read:

This is our cry,
this is our prayer;
peace in the world.

In 1985, students at the Hiroshima International School started the “Thousand Cranes Club.” The club invites schools and other children’s groups all over the world to fold a thousand cranes. In the meantime, the groups talk about Sadako, and issues of war and peace. The cranes are then sent to Hiroshima, where they are hung on the Peace Monument.


Swedish Physicians Against Nuclear Weapons

Last updated
11 January, 2023