Spreading wings of peace
A gesture of reconciliation is offered by the people of the city involved in developing the atom bomb.
MORE than 1,000 origami cranes folded by the residents of Los Alamos County in the United States have been gifted as a sign of peace and reconciliation to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to mark the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of the two Japanese cities.
Sunday was the 72nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II, and tomorrow will mark the same for Nagasaki.
The director of a history museum in Los Alamos, where the first atomic bomb was created, presented the cranes at this year’s memorial ceremonies held in the two cities to offer prayers for the victims.
Exchanges between the place where the atomic bomb was developed and the atomic-bombed cities have increased through origami cranes.
Masaru Tanaka, a contemporary artist and associate professor at Kyoto University of Art and Design remembers being excited when he saw the origami cranes, which were made in the place where the atomic bomb was developed, on his smartphone in July.
The Los Alamos National Laboratory in the American state of New Mexico was the base for the Manhattan Project during World War II that developed the atomic bomb. A bomb was successfully tested in the New Mexico desert in July 1945, and the weapons were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of the same year.
Judith Stauber, director of the Los Alamos History Museum, posted on Facebook in July about the project to send the origami cranes to Hiroshima and Nagasaki (facebook.com/LosAlamosHistory). Tanaka, 48, was delighted to see a photo on Facebook of the museum exhibiting the cranes folded by Los Alamos residents.
They still care deeply about the atomic-bombed cities, he says.
Tanaka visited Los Alamos in March. At the museum, he exhibited an artwork featuring a photo of the origami cranes former US President Barack Obama folded when he visited Hiroshima in May last year.
Tanaka was born in Hiroshima and is a child of an atomic bomb victim. His father, 76, was exposed to radiation when he was four, and has keloid scars on both legs. But he did not explain the scars, and has not shared the experience even with his family.
As an adult, Tanaka learned that the atomic bombing had left his father with a long-lasting emotional scar. Since then, the artist has felt that it is his mission to pass on the stories of the victims.
The Los Alamos museum’s exhibition that Tanaka participated in focused on the development of the atomic bomb. Souvenir shops in the city sold T-shirts illustrated with a mushroom cloud. Many people there believe the atomic bombs led to the end of World War II and are proud of that.
In the city, Tanaka wanted to make good use of the origami cranes that signify Obama’s message of peace. He believes art rep- resenting the hope for peace and nuclear abolition can connect people.
Some Los Alamos residents who visited the museum said Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor during WWII led to the atomic bombings. And some said nuclear arms are necessary to protect their country from the North Korean nuclear threat.
Others told Tanaka they want him to visit Los Alamos again. Some offered their hands to him and said they should stay in touch. Tanaka felt their response was positive.
Around that time, he heard about Stauber’s project to deliver origami cranes to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
There is a range of perspectives in both Japan and the United States about nuclear weapons, Stauber said in an e-mail to The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.
“We were deeply affected by the personal stories and experiences under the mushroom cloud and are committed to helping to spread the message of both the [Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum], so that we might all better understand the range of perspectives in the US and Japan.
“Overcoming historical perceptions, the origami cranes spread their wings to bridge the [gap between the] two countries, which could foster dialogue.”
Stauber visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Naka Ward, Hiroshima, last Friday and handed out about 650 peace-wishing paper cranes.
They are half of about 1,300 cranes that the American museum collected with the rest to be presented in Nagasaki.
The Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome (foreground, left) in a crowded Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima on Sunday. The day marked the 72nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of the Japanese city during World War II. A US B-29 airplane dropped the bomb over the city at 8.15am on Aug 6, 1945, marking the first use of an atomic weapon on this planet. The detonation ultimately claimed the lives of some 140,000 people.
Stauber (left) presenting the paper cranes to officials at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum last Friday.
Burning incense and offering prayers early in the morning on Sunday at the memorial service.