1000 Cranes

In January, I decided that I was going to make one thousand cranes, as per the tradition, and take them to the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima. I remember doing origami as a child, so learning how to make a crane wasn't a problem at all; the colossal number I'd committed to making was a little more daunting however. 
For those that don't know about the one thousand cranes story, let me give you a brief summary. In Japanese folklore and culture, cranes are one of three highly revered animals and can be seen painted on paper screens in old buildings, carved into roofs of castles, and hanging on strings at events like weddings. The belief is that if one can make a thousand cranes (one for every year of their believed lives) then one's wish will come true. 
Following this story, a 12 year old girl named Sadako Sasaki, who had been two at the time the atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima on the 6th August 1945, was diagnosed with Leukaemia as a result of residual radiation. She began folding cranes hoping to get better. There are two diversions in the story at this point: some say she failed to finish the cranes before passing away and her friends finished them for her, and the other story says she did finish the cranes, but when her wish did not come true, she continued to fold cranes until she died.
Ever since Sadako's heartwarming story became publicised, every year millions of cranes are brought to Hiroshima Peace Park. 

my cranes in the middle 

Making 1000 cranes has been a bit of a personal mission for me this year. I never worked out how long it actually took me to make them all, but I set myself the challenge of making 4 per day. There were days I made 30 or 40 however in one long Netflix session! It certainly kept me busy on the more boring days - of which there were quite a few. 

My plan was to take the cranes to Hiroshima Peace park on the memorial day, but as I am leaving Japan early to go to my cousin's wedding in Chicago (I'm writing this from Seoul Airport where I have a six hour transit), I made sure I was able to take them before I left. The whole trip was very unplanned as the southern part of Japan where I live was incredibly badly affected by the flooding. Hiroshima and Okayama both had hundreds of casualties and lots of damage, with whole train lines collapsing down the hillside. Transport was therefore problematic, and the two girls I went with and I had to fork out £120 for a return trip on the bullet train. As the girls I went with hadn't been to Hiroshima before, in the morning we went over to Miyajima Island to visit Itsukushima Shrine and the famous floating gate (torii).

Renee, Julia and I 

Itsukushima torii

a traditional boat passing through the main gate of the shrine

After a couple of hours exploring and getting okonomiyaki for lunch (a famous dish from Hiroshima which is like a cabbage pancake with other toppings and bbq sauce - a must-try in Japan), we went to the Peace Park.

It was an extremely hot day and the whole area was quite quiet, which I was glad for. When it came to actually hanging my cranes in the clear box they leave open for you to freely visit, I had the area to myself. I knew it was going to be an emotional day, both in the setting of Hiroshima and its tragic history, but also it felt like the end of an era. I set myself a goal, I accomplished that goal, and then I left Japan the week later. It all felt very fitting, and there were tears in the shed-load. Parting with them was oddly difficult, leaving all my hard work just hanging there after looking at the pile accumulating all year was bittersweet! Yet I hope someone sees my cranes, or the message I hung from the bottom, and feels inspired to do the same.

my cranes
teary but happy!

view from the waterside part of the Peace Park

the Childrens' Peace Monument with Sadako Sasaki on the top

What an amazing way to round off of my time here in Japan. I feel that through everything, I have made sure to make the most of every experience. The cranes are sort of the peak of that - instead of allowing loneliness to ruin my time, I folded cranes. And the closer I got to finishing, the closer home felt.

As I sit here in Seoul Airport, laden with a year's worth of baggage and a strange mix of happiness, sadness and exhaustion, it seems utterly unbelievable that I'm only 15 hours away from all my loved ones.

I've also realised that I love Kent. I love my home. But truly, home is simply wherever my family are, and right now they are in Chicago preparing for my our cousin's wedding; so that's where I'm going. Prepare the tissues family members - I'm not going to let you go very far from my sight.


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