A history of SENBAZURU

Does anyone know what is SENBAZURU? We are now going to discuss one of the marvelous Japanese traditions. SENBAZURU is a set of ORIGAMI cranes (the art of paper-folding) aligned and joined together by thread. In the olden days in Japan, the crane was considered as a symbol of good health, happiness and long life. Therefore, when you want a hospitalized person to recover from an illness, you give them a SENBAZURU. There are also cases in which they are given to the elderly, wishing them a long life.

Set origami cranes via Purplume’s blog

SENBAZURU refers to the cranes and there should be a thousand of them, but in reality it is not necessary to make a “thousand cranes”; the quantity always varies but the significance remains the same. It is more important in the sentiment towards the recipient we keep when dedicating the cranes rather than the quantity.

For a long time, in East Asia the idea was spread that the bird is a vehicle of the soul, or the soul itself. As such birds were seen as special, especially the crane, with a refined image, and the large crane was seen as an omen of happiness.

In Japan, for hundreds of years people have been in the habit of leaving SENBAZURU as if it were an offering, while making a wish, in Buddhist and Shinto temples. However, this custom was not a general practice. SENBAZURU gained its current popularity from when the US dropped the atomic bomb over Hiroshima, killing thousands of innocent lives.

Hiroshima Castle – Via Wikipedia

There is such a case that people have heard of; Sadako Sasaki. She was born on January 7, 1943 and left this world when she was just 12 years old, on October 25, 1955. On August 6, 1945, when she was only two years old, she suffered from the radiation caused by the black rain at her home, just 1.7 kilometers from where the bomb dropped on Hiroshima fell. However, for almost ten years, she grew ‘normally’ without any symptoms manifesting. But in 1954, at the age of 11, she was taken to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with leukemia, which is a typical disease caused by radiation.

Sadako Sasaki

An institution in Nagoya sent Sadako ORIGAMI cranes to wish her a speedy recovery. For that reason, she and other hospitalized patients began to make cranes.They believed that by doing SENBAZURU “they could achieve their desires” and “be cured”. However, their illness progressed, the fever increased, they suffered from headaches causing them endless sleepless nights, but they continued to make cranes effortlessly. She nevertheless continued to make cranes whilst praying. Until her last day, it is said that Sadako made 1300 or 1500 cranes approximately.

Memorial Park of Peace

At her funeral, the attendees placed the cranes she made inside the coffin. Since then, SENBAZURU has been massively disseminated as a symbol of peace. Sadako’s colleagues carried out a collection that reached all of Japan and made possible the construction of “The statue of the children of the atomic bomb” in the Peace Memorial Park. This statue symbolizes the sentiment: “So that the children do not once again become victims of atomic bombs”. Currently, around this statue are SENBAZURU sown from different parts of the world. Today SENBAZURU is given not only to the elderly and the sick, but also to loved ones. The SENBAZURU whispers to the person: “everything will be fine, do not worry”.

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