Thoughts from Masahiro-san
“It’s been more than sixty years since Sadako died. I was a junior high school student then, and I had a lot of feelings I couldn’t sort out at the time. But now I can understand the things that I learned from Sadako during her short life and the things that she hid in her heart.
In her brief twelve years, Sadako loved her family, and we loved her. Our parents showed compassion for Sadako during her illness, and Sadako showed compassion toward our parents during their financial difficulties. Sadako taught us the importance of “omoiyari-no-kokoro,” the showing consideration for others, no matter life’s circumstances.
In Japanese culture, omoiyari-no-kokoro, the act of showing empathy and concern, is taught from an early age and considered one of the most important things a child can learn in preschool.
Sadako folded her prayers into the origami cranes which she so earnestly made. The first thousand cranes were an ardent prayer that she would be cured of her illness. With the next thousand cranes, she prayed for our father’s debt to be resolved. Our family prayed for Sadako’s happiness. And Sadako, despite her illness, folded for ours. She folded so that she could go home, and for her family’s happiness.
What I learned from Sadako was that from a heart that values love and compassion, we can be in perfect empathy with one another, respecting and understanding one another deeply. Even when her leukemia worsened and her legs hurt so much that she couldn’t walk, Sadako still treated her family with compassion, thinking that if her family knew of her hardship, they would worry about her. So for those of us that have no worries, there’s no reason for us not to treat those around us with compassion.
When Sadako was in the hospital, not once did she say, “It hurts,” “I’m in pain,” or “Help me.” Not once did she speak with bitterness or hatred toward the atomic bomb or the country that dropped it on Hiroshima. I am also a hibakusha, but Sadako taught me to “forget” the name of the country which dropped the atomic bomb.
More than seventy years have passed since the war ended. There is no point in discussing whether the use of atomic bombs was right or not. The issue is what kind of ordeal the people of the world had to go through due to war. This should never be forgotten by any of the countries that participated. We need to teach our children the lesson that any war should not happen. The hearts of resentment and retaliation that can emerge from unforgettable experiences of the past should never be handed over to children who will hold the future in their hands. We must throw away our resentment. From hatred, only hatred and hearts of revenge will be born.
To move forward, we must unite with others. The wisest choice is to recognize and respect the differences in our ways of thinking, creating a new stage of hope that includes open discussions amongst all people. To overcome certain naturally existing differences between us, we should have a generous mind, accepting each other. This is the first step we should make and is the essence of omoiyari-no-kokoro. It is important to always keep it in our mind. Extending consideration and compassion to others is a security code that can open the doors of the hearts of all people living on this Earth.
Pure eyes of children, eyes seeking something, hearts of believing anything, we do not defile them with our egoism.
Sadako died when she was twelve. I imagine she wanted to play more, study more, talk with her friends more, eat more… There were lots of things she wanted to do. But her life ended before she had a chance to experience those things. Sadako was regretful because she didn’t have the opportunity to do them. Therefore, we should think about the incredible value our uneventful daily lives have. We should be thankful for walking, eating, playing, studying, the ordinary things we spend time doing every day.
Before her death, Sadako was aware that she had leukemia. That was why she became more and more compassionate toward our parents, as she did not want them to be sad and concerned about her.
In your daily life, you will face many problems and experience much happiness. And I suppose you will laugh a lot and shed a lot of tears. But you’ll also study a lot, and talk with your friends a lot. Do you think you are compassionate and caring to your friends? Do you practice omoiyari-no-kokoro?
Cry when you need to if you have a lot of troubles, but grow up with a kind heart, filled with compassion. When you are able to behave in that way, I am sure you will notice that you have changed. This is the way to create a small bit of peace in your surroundings. When we can connect such small bits of peace together, we will surely have greater hope of peace in the future. This proves that you are living your life to its fullest.”
I am a hairdresser working at my own hair salon (for women), from 9 to 5. My customers are women. My wife is also working with me.
Paper cranes sent to my hair salon are displayed in our salon, and then our customers tell us they look beautiful, or sometimes new customers even ask us “why is your salon decorated with so many paper cranes?” I take advantage of such an opportunity to start talking about Sadako so that I can always remember my sister Sadako, and also feel happy to talk about the importance of peace (together with the tragedy of war) to those people.
When I talk to children, I remember our childhood, war, and how miserable our life was during/after the war. At the same time, I can strongly realize how happy I am now, I can appreciate my life (that I am living now on behalf of Sadako). Listeners also encourage me saying “Please stay in good health, and continue to give us lectures like now for many years to come”.
I hope children will be able to think about the reasons why in the world, there are always wars, conflicts, fightings, terrorism, etc. I hope they can find the answers to the issue, why people do such things. I hope children will grow up thoughtful (like Sadako) and global so that they can appreciate any differences in nationality, culture, religion, etc.
I have never faced any challenges. When I talk to people about Sadako, if I could feel that my heart and the hearts of those people are connected, I can feel as if Sadako is standing by me. That is my happiest moment.
When I talk to children, I remember my childhood, the war, and how miserable our lives were during and after the war. Remembering those times makes me realize how happy I am now. I can appreciate my life, and know that I am living now on behalf of Sadako as well. Listeners also encourage me by saying “Please stay in good health, and continue to give us lectures like now for many years to come.”
I hope children will be able to think about the reasons why there are always wars, conflicts, fightings, terrorism, etc. in the world. I hope they can find the answers to why people do such things. I hope children will grow up thoughtful (like Sadako) and global so that they can appreciate and respect any differences in nationality, culture, religion, etc.
Moreover, for children who will be responsible for the future, we (my Sadako Legacy Organization) are donating paper cranes as a symbol to overcome differences in order to pursue how we people should be.
The essence of the mind that acknowledges the difference is the mind of Omoiyari, which means you are attentive and thoughtful towards others. The important thing is to let the world know is that we are always striving for peace and continue to encourage others to look for ways to make the world a more peaceful place.
Why is it so important to you to donate Sadako’s cranes to places like the Truman Library or the 9/11 Memorial?
In the case of the 911 Memorial, the first inquiries came from them. In the beginning, the 911Committee asked the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum about the meaning of paper cranes (this was because paper cranes were hung at the fence of the 911 site by a visitor, and the stakeholders at the 911 Committee did not know the meaning of paper cranes. The Museum explained about Sadako, and the people on the 911 Committee were moved by her story, They asked the Museum to send photos of Sadako to display with those paper cranes, The Museum then made a request to the Sasaki family to communicate with the 911 Committee directly.
We share the same term Ground Zero, used for atomic bombings and also for 911.
The actions of certain countries (such as the USA abandoning the INF Treaty) seem to be encouraging nuclear proliferation. How do you feel about this?
The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to ban all of the two nations’ land-based ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, etc.
We people live in such places, and we must obey our leaders regardless of our preference for the policy. For example, there are liberal democratic countries and communist countries, so this means there is no policy that can accept both. There are also significant differences in human rights issues and some prioritize the interests of the country over human rights.
Why do you think certain countries seem to encourage nuclear proliferation, even after knowing what nuclear weapons can do?
I think people are intelligent mammals that follow stronger people, follow the existing system, and fight for the cause of justice.
Other animals follow natural bonds! But people use knowledge to destroy nature. I think we should become more humble about nature. I think that the return of nature is going to be overwhelming, and one day our disregard of nature will come back at us!
We have to read the background why some countries have become more belligerent. There must be people who want to get benefit from it, so you must see their connections. If young people are calm, if the people who will lead the next generation speak up, if they keep their minds connected, we adults will notice. Let’s start connecting by changing the hand holding the gun to the hand holding the pencil!
In today’s context, why do you think it is so important, to you and to other people, to continue to share Sadako’s story?
I think it is very important and essential.
That is because Sadako’s story and paper cranes as a symbol of peace are recognized all over the world. Paper cranes are a messenger of peace, e.g. respecting human rights, protecting each life, opposing all discrimination, etc. I would like to introduce to as many more people as possible that folding a paper crane is an act that connects the heart and overcomes our differences.
A person who has lived happily without doubting that it would last forever, but suddenly encounters suffering or misfortune will benefit from reading this book.
Our father told Sadako that your dream will come true if you make a thousand paper cranes.
I think Sadako was a child that God entrusted to the Sasaki family. I think that the life of Sadako did not end in vain because she demonstrated to us how to live strongly while enduring all the hardships she had to carry.
Now paper cranes became known throughout the world as a symbol of peace (thanks to Sadako), but traditionally cranes are a symbol of longevity. After learning that if you make a thousand paper cranes your dream would come true, I think Sadako felt making cranes was the only way to give her peace of mind. Sadako suffered a lot, she had intense pain and fatigue, and if making cranes helped Sadako not to feel very lonely while doing so, I feel very happy.
Basically, there is no rule to which country or place we should donate Sadako’s crane. For example, there was once a war, and Japan and the United States battled in the past. There are still differences in thinking about past wars. So now, as a symbol of mutual understanding (and respect) of such different ways of thinking, so far, places related to the past wars were selected and a Sadako’s paper crane was donated.
After Sadako’s death, she became popular through news. Some of those who could not understand the pain of Sadako envied, and took such actions, I think. My parents left Hiroshima because they wanted to protect the family and keep their hearts peaceful.
On May 5, 1958, the statue of Genbaku-no-ko-no-zoh was erected and paper cranes were dedicated to it. Since then, it became well known.