Sadako Sasaki: Tragedy, hope and a thousand paper cranes

Her heartbreaking story has inspired millions around the world.

In 1945 Japan was left reeling after the United States detonated nuclear weapons over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The attack, which left more than 140 000 people dead, spelt the end of the World War 2 conflict between the two countries.

The blast in Hiroshima threw two-year-old Sadako Sasaki out of her family home but she miraculously survived, reports Teachers of India.

Sadako’s grandmother went back into the house to gather personal belongings – but never returned.

Then when she was 11 Sadako fell ill and was diagnosed with leukaemia as a result of the radiation of the blast, according to The Japanese Shop. Doctors gave her only a year to live.

While in hospital Sadako’s wardmate, one Chizuko, told her she’d be granted one wish by the gods if she folded a thousand paper cranes.

In hope of staying alive, the young girl desperately folded papers every day but unfortunately failed – by the time she tragically died on 25 October 1955 she’d managed to fold only 644 cranes. Her friends then folded the remaining cranes.

To keep her legacy going, Sadako’s brother Sasaki decided to donate the cranes to various places around the world, including the World Trade Center Tribute Visitor Center in New York, which commemorates the people who died in the 2001 9/11 terrorist attacks, Japan Times reports.

“The sadness that (led to the establishment of these memorials) are the same as Sadako’s,” Sasaki said. “We’re placing her cranes all around the world with the message that we hope such tragedies will never occur again.

“And by placing one at Pearl Harbour, I hope it’ll lead to a true beginning of the end of the war between Japan and the US.” Japan’s 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour, America’s naval base in Hawaii, sparked the war between the countries that culminated with America’s nuclear attacks.

Sadako’s story has become known all over the world as a sad reminder of the effect World War 2 had on the Japanese people.